Chemical Engineering

Chemical engineering (ChE) is a core engineering discipline with myriad applications across industries. Chemical engineers apply advanced knowledge of chemistry, among other sciences, to problems of mass manufacturing and distribution, as well as emerging issues like energy development, pollution control, and nanoscale drug delivery.

Chemical engineering is technology-intensive. It begins in the lab and ends with large-scale process implementation, from production for markets to public health projects. Jobs are commonly in settings like laboratories, factories, offices, and sometimes at field work sites.

Wherever the synthesis or processing of chemical materials is a concern, chemical engineers are needed to ensure sound science, productive viability, and safety. This is the case in diverse industries, from pharmaceuticals and biotechnology to environmental health, food processing, energy, medical devices, synthetics, and more.

Chemical engineers must be educated at least to the bachelor's level, preferably with a degree in chemical engineering. Programs should be approved by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of the ABET, or Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology.

Degrees in Chemical Engineering

Bachelor Degrees

Chemical engineering requires relatively less education than other engineering disciplines; a bachelor's degree is sufficient professional qualification. More than 70 percent of chemical engineers have only a bachelor's qualification, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

While chemical engineering students are especially focused on chemistry, they also take classes in physics, biology, materials science, and applied mathematics, as well as communications and economics. They must also develop strong computer literacy skills, including in Computer-Aided Design.

Bachelors planning to go directly to a doctoral ChE program need to identify the necessary prerequisites defined by their desired program as early as possible. Some bachelors pursue a double major with an area like chemistry or materials science to enhance their competitive edge in grad school admissions.

Bachelor-level ChE classes include:

  • Chemical-Biological Engineering Laboratory
  • Microprocessing Technology
  • Introduction to Experimental Biology & Communication

ChE bachelors can immediately enter the workforce as a:

  • Technical Engineer
  • Chemical Refining Engineer
  • Process Engineer

Master Degrees

About one-quarter of chemical engineers have a master's in the field, according to the U.S. BLS. Master chemical engineers tend to work in the private sector. The Bureau says that a master's in chemical engineering initially enhances job opportunities over a bachelor's degree, but over time, bachelor degree-holders' industry experience can neutralize these gains.

There are terminal Master of Science programs for ChE majors, many of which are coursework-only, requiring neither a thesis nor research. These are designed principally for those headed to the private sector, especially in manufacturing and professional-technical services.

It is possible to get into a master's level ChE program without having a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering, although having a coursework or experiential foundation in a core engineering discipline is highly recommended. Students don't need to have chosen an area of specialization coming into graduate school. They should let their interests and skills guide a choice of specialization at this level.

Some students earn a master's in chemical engineering as part of a co-terminal track alongside a professional degree in medicine, law, education, or business. This would be a useful pathway for the executive of a bioscience startup, for example, or a ChE innovator working in cancer biotechnology.

The best chemical engineering schools have both interdisciplinary breadth and elective depth for purposes of specialization. There should be a strong research component for students who intend to apply to doctoral programs. Master-level coursework in Chemical Engineering might include:

  • Thermodynamics & Molecular Computation
  • Catalysis & Chemical Reaction Engineering
  • Surfaces & Nanostructures

What kinds of jobs are available to master degree-holders?

  • Senior Energy Engineer
  • Chemical Plant Engineering Manager
  • Director of Chemical Engineering

Doctoral Work

Less than 5 percent of chemical engineers have a Ph.D., according to the U.S. BLS. For those who plan to teach or conduct independent research, a doctorate is in order. Many chemical engineering Ph.D.s go on to postdoctoral research positions to further deepen their area of specialization.

Some Ph.D. admission committees allow a bachelor's in a discipline other than chemical engineering, preferably a related science or engineering discipline such as chemistry, mechanical engineering, or physics. Other bachelors may be accepted but they may be required to complete compensatory coursework, lengthening the time it takes to finish school.

The top chemical engineering schools are looking for candidates with a solid grasp of college-level mathematics, such as linear algebra and partial differential equations, and introductory engineering studies, covering subjects like thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, and reaction kinetics.

In most cases, candidates need to complete a research dissertation to earn the Ph.D. credential. Dissertations in chemical engineering might focus on:

  • Ozone Chemistry for Biodiesel Optimization
  • Properties of Conductive Nanomaterials
  • Metabolic Changes in Alzheimer's Disease

A Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering may lead to a career as a:

  • Global Research & Development Chemical Process Engineer
  • Professor of Chemical Engineering
  • Chemical Patent Prosecution Agent

We found 163 schools offering chemical engineering degree programs in the U.S.

>> See all 163 Chemical Engineering Colleges in the U.S.

Chemical Engineering Schools Ranked By US News and World Report

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, MA  |  Total Enrollment: 10090

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, Master's, Doctor's, First-professional degree
California Institute of Technology
Pasadena, CA  |  Total Enrollment: 1968

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's
University of California - Berkeley
Berkeley, CA  |  Total Enrollment: 31277

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree, First-professional certificate
Stanford University
Stanford, CA  |  Total Enrollment: 18549

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree
University of Minnesota - Twin Cities
Minneapolis, MN  |  Total Enrollment: 45481

Degrees Offered: One but less than two years, Two but less than 4 years, Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree
University of Wisconsin - Madison
Madison, WI  |  Total Enrollment: 40658

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree
The University of Texas at Austin
Austin, TX  |  Total Enrollment: 49996

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, Master's, Doctor's, First-professional degree
Princeton University
Princeton, NJ  |  Total Enrollment: 6547

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, Master's, Doctor's
University of California - Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, CA  |  Total Enrollment: 19962

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's
Georgia Institute of Technology - Main Campus
Atlanta, GA  |  Total Enrollment: 14805

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, Master's, Doctor's

Browse All 163 Colleges With Chemical Engineering Programs

Title City State Enrollment
Arizona State University at the Tempe Campus Tempe AZ 44126
Auburn University Main Campus Auburn University AL 21860
Brigham Young University Provo UT 32554
Brigham Young University - Idaho Rexburg ID 8949
Bucknell University Lewisburg PA 3592
California Institute of Technology Pasadena CA 1968
California State Polytechnic University - Pomona Pomona CA 18424
California State University - Long Beach Long Beach CA 30918
Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh PA 8514
Case Western Reserve University Cleveland OH 9304
Christian Brothers University Memphis TN 2167
Clarkson University Potsdam NY 2877
Clemson University Clemson SC 17465
Cleveland State University Cleveland OH 15294
College of Southern Idaho Twin Falls ID 5452
Colorado School of Mines Golden CO 3738
Colorado State University Fort Collins CO 26807
Columbia University in the City of New York New York NY 19639
Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art New York NY 906
Cornell University Ithaca NY 12043
Cuny City College New York NY 11055
Cuny Graduate School and University Center New York NY 3567
Drexel University Philadelphia PA 13128
Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University Tallahassee FL 12126
Florida Institute of Technology - Melbourne Melbourne FL 4248
Florida International University Miami FL 31945
Florida State University Tallahassee FL 33971
Geneva College Beaver Falls PA 2297
Georgia Institute of Technology - Main Campus Atlanta GA 14805
Hampton University Hampton VA 5743
Howard University Washington DC 10010
Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago IL 6003
Iowa State University Ames IA 26845
Johns Hopkins University Baltimore MD 17774
Kansas State University Manhattan KS 21929
Kilgore College Kilgore TX 4000
Lafayette College Easton PA 2279
Lamar University Beaumont TX 11550
Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College Baton Rouge LA 31527
Louisiana Tech University Ruston LA 10363
Manhattan College Bronx NY 3070
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge MA 10090
Michigan State University East Lansing MI 43366
Michigan Technological University Houghton MI 6336
Mississippi State University Mississippi State MS 16561
New Jersey Institute of Technology Newark NJ 8820
New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology Socorro NM 1549
New Mexico State University - Main Campus Las Cruces NM 14958
North Carolina A & T State University Greensboro NC 7748
North Carolina State University at Raleigh Raleigh NC 28619
Northeastern University Boston MA 23897
Northwestern University Evanston IL 16952
Ohio State University - Main Campus Columbus OH 47952
Ohio University - Main Campus Athens OH 19920
Oklahoma State University - Main Campus Stillwater OK 18676
Oregon State University Corvallis OR 16758
Pennsylvania State University - Main Campus University Park PA 40571
Polytechnic University Brooklyn NY 3059
Prairie View A & M University Prairie View TX 6609
Princeton University Princeton NJ 6547
Purdue University - Main Campus West Lafayette IN 39667
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Troy NY 8022
Rice University Houston TX 4205
Rose - Hulman Institute of Technology Terre Haute IN 1725
Rowan University Glassboro NJ 9364
Rutgers University - New Brunswick/piscataway New Brunswick NJ 35236
San Jose State University San Jose CA 26698
Snow College Ephraim UT 2999
South Dakota School of Mines and Technology Rapid City SD 2307
Southern Utah University Cedar City UT 5963
Stanford University Stanford CA 18549
Stevens Institute of Technology Hoboken NJ 4121
Suny at Buffalo Buffalo NY 24830
Syracuse University Syracuse NY 18186
Tennessee Technological University Cookeville TN 8410
Texas A & M University College Station TX 44026
Texas A & M University - Kingsville Kingsville TX 5948
Texas Tech University Lubbock TX 24558
The University of Alabama Tuscaloosa AL 19277
The University of Tennessee Knoxville TN 25890
The University of Texas at Austin Austin TX 49996
Tri - State University Angola IN 1267
Tufts University Medford MA 9106
Tulane University of Louisiana New Orleans LA 11652
Tuskegee University Tuskegee AL 2826
University of Akron Main Campus Akron OH 21363
University of Alabama in Huntsville Huntsville AL 6563
University of Arizona Tucson AZ 34488
University of Arkansas Main Campus Fayetteville AR 15346
University of California - Berkeley Berkeley CA 31277
University of California - Davis Davis CA 26094
University of California - Irvine Irvine CA 20211
University of California - Los Angeles Los Angeles CA 36890
University of California - Riverside Riverside CA 13015
University of California - San Diego La Jolla CA 20197
University of California - Santa Barbara Santa Barbara CA 19962
University of Cincinnati - Main Campus Cincinnati OH 27327
University of Colorado at Boulder Boulder CO 29352
University of Connecticut Storrs CT 19393
University of Dayton Dayton OH 10318
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