Chemical process engineers design, inspect, and maintain a wide range of systems and equipment used in manufacturing. They make sure that factories are safe for workers and as environmentally-friendly as possible. Chemical process engineer jobs are available in many different industries and settings. The majority of professionals work for manufacturing plants that produce chemical-based products, such as paper, plastics, and metal alloys. Chemical process engineer jobs can also be found in oil refineries, pharmaceutical companies, government regulatory agencies, and consulting firms.
An engineer at a manufacturing plant typically oversees systems that harness chemical reactions. Among other settings, he or she might work at a factory that makes paint, industrial chemicals, prefabricated metals, plastic goods, or consumer electronics. Regardless of the setting, a chemical engineer focuses on improving the safety and efficiency of processes. A professional might experiment with different base chemicals, oxidation processes, or plastic polymers to determine the best ways to create cheap, reliable products.
Workers also hold chemical process engineer jobs outside of product manufacturing. Engineers at petroleum factories and oil refineries, for example, calculate detailed equations and perform physical experiments to determine the best ways to obtain usable fuels. Professionals at agricultural science labs improve crop yields by enhancing fertilizers. Pharmaceutical companies also employ engineers to create large quantities of antibiotics, vaccines, and other biologic medications through complex chemical processes.
Chemical process engineers who work for government agencies and private firms often provide consultation services for many different major corporations. They visit factories to inspect the safety of machinery, systems, and processes. If a violation is discovered, such as a leaking pressure chamber, an inspecting engineer may issue a warning and suggest ways that the problem can be remedied. He or she may also help company owners ensure that they can come into compliance with legal standards. A private consultant or government inspector might also provide training for factory workers and resident engineers to help them establish better policies.
A college degree is needed in order to qualify for most chemical process engineer jobs. In general, employers at industrial factories, refineries, and government agencies prefer to hire professionals who hold bachelor's degrees or higher in chemical engineering and have some relevant experience in the field. College graduates typically begin their careers as technicians or assistants to develop practical skills. With about four years of experience and success on regional or national licensing exams, a person can usually pursue senior chemical process engineer jobs.