In order to become a lead process engineer, a person must obtain at the very least a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering, mechanical engineering or a related field of study. The candidate might also be required to work as a student intern or undergo a company training program. Successfully passing a certification exam, such as the Professional Engineer (PE) Exam, might also be required.
Process engineering is a diverse field, and it employs people from many different backgrounds. These people usually have engineering degrees or physical science degrees relevant to their fields. A bachelor's degree from an accredited school in chemical engineering, mechanical engineering or petroleum engineering is usually the minimal educational requirement for someone who wants to become a lead process engineer. An advanced degree might be required for process engineering roles that focus more on research and development.
After completing the academic requirements to become a lead process engineer, the candidate must then seek out prospective employers or companies. The most popular industries for process engineers are the petrochemical industries and the chemicals industry. Job postings can be found through the Internet on career networking websites, through other forms of job advertisements or at career fairs. To apply for a process engineering job, the candidate must submit a professional résumé, fill out an application and undergo an interviewing process.
Many companies require prospective lead process engineers to intern with them or to take training courses. The work that an intern or trainee would encounter would include the job requirements of a lead process engineer. Process and personal safety, process improvement, control systems, environmental regulations and troubleshooting are examples of the required curriculum. The company might also require formal certification.
Beyond the educational and training requirements, the candidate must also show proficiency in communication skills. Good communication skills will help the candidate throughout the interviewing phase and will continue to be of use after a job has been secured. A lead process engineer must often present data and instructions to audiences ranging from process operators to upper-level managers and supervisors. Business etiquette and clarity in writing are essential for the candidate to become a lead process engineer.
Chemical and petrochemical companies are not the only options for process engineers. A lead process engineer might work as an independent consultant, but this role usually requires a specialized license, such as a Professional Engineer license. This type of license is obtained by work experience and a specialized test that is designed to measure the engineer's grasp of basic engineering principles and ethics. Such a license can provide the candidate with increased career opportunities, but it is not necessarily required to become a lead process engineer at most companies.