Chemical engineers are men and women who apply chemistry to the development of new products and systems, power supplies, and waste management techniques. Professionals might experiment with new compounds and solutions, make improvements to chemical manufacturing processes, or develop new machines, equipment, and systems for use in chemical production and disposal. Junior or entry level chemical engineers typically work in teams led by senior engineers to conduct tests and solve problems. An individual who wants to become an entry level chemical engineer should be creative and detail-oriented, possess a bachelor's degree or higher, and choose a specialization within the field.
Personal skills and traits that are essential to become an entry level chemical engineer include creativity, insight, organization, and direction. Since a significant part of the job involves conducting research, analyzing test results, and writing papers, entry level workers are usually required to be proficient with word processing software and a number of different computer applications. In addition, individuals must be willing and able to communicate effectively with coworkers and supervisors to ensure accurate results. It is important for a chemical engineer to be able to set and achieve clear goals within a given time frame.
A person who wants to become an entry level chemical engineer is usually required to obtain at least a bachelor's degree in engineering, chemistry, or both from an accredited university. Most chemical engineering programs take between four to five years to complete, and entail extensive classroom studies and laboratory work. Prospective engineers usually take advanced courses in chemistry, biology, math, physics, computer science, and statistics. Students spend significant amounts of time in university laboratories, where they learn firsthand about designing and conducting experiments.
Many college students pursue internships at their schools or local chemical manufacturing plants to gain experience in the field and improve their chances of finding employment after graduation. Researching different industries and participating in an internship can help a person wishing to become an entry level chemical engineer decide on a specialty. Many employers prefer to hire entry level workers who have detailed knowledge about specific processes or technologies.
Upon graduation and the successful completion of an internship, an individual may choose to become an entry level chemical engineer in a manufacturing plant, private laboratory, power company, waste management firm, or biotechnology institution. Many entry level engineers choose to pursue master's degrees while working full- or part-time so they may eventually obtain senior positions. Individuals who work towards advanced degrees and spend several years in entry level positions usually have ample room for advancement within a company.