Careers to Consider – Chemical Engineering

Chemical Engineering Training: Today and The Future

A basic 4-year Chemical Engineering degree is one of the four basic engineering original degree programs. The others are Civil, Electrical and Mechanical. However in recent years there has been a take-off of specialties and actually renaming of Engineering Departments such as Environmental, Materials, Bio, etc.

These specialties are well and good but really ought to be reserved for graduate training. It just seems to confuse young people and perhaps get them to declare themselves too early in their education. The basic curriculum in a 4-year Chemical Engineering Program has math, chemistry and physics along with a liberal arts course and mechanical drawing for the first year. The second year has the most important starting Chemical Engineering course which deals with processes and flow sheets. In my experience, many non-engineering students take this course because of its value for systems approaches to problems. The rest of the 4-year curriculum includes quite a bit of Chemistry and other engineering courses. There are laboratory courses in Chemistry and Unit Operations (i.e. processes). This type of program helps develop a great capacity for “problem solving” which is a skill that industry wants and needs.

When one looks at the courses for various Engineering Schools you will find a number of options. Overall though, most educators and students see a Chemical Engineering degree as the most scientific one of the major disciplines. In fact the statistics show that more Chemical Engineering students go on to graduate school after they obtain their B.S. degree. A number I have seen is about 25%. This provides a great degree of flexibility to both average and above average students and industry really likes these students. For example at my undergraduate school, about 95% of the students get jobs every year.

Although it is reasonable that the chemical and Allied industries hire Chemical Engineers, they are also actively sought by companies like GE, IBM and a host of computer oriented companies. I was first employed by the USAF for a while before joining the DUPONT Company and later Mobil Oil. Many Chemical Engineers make a career in design as well as Mechanical Engineers and these are interesting careers with large Engineering firms.

Although it is not necessary, Chemical Engineers do get PE (professional engineers) licenses even if they go on to graduate school. The scientific nature of a basic Chemical Engineering degree also serves as a good entry into the teaching profession once an advanced degree is pursued… After 10 or so years the career opportunities open up in management and many Presidents of large companies have Chemical Engineering degrees.

The Consulting Field is also wide open for Chemical Engineers especially those with a graduate degree. Most chemical engineers enter consulting in their later years or as part of job transitions that are always occurring. One specific organization is the Association of Consulting Chemists and Chemical Engineers, Inc. (ACCCE) which is a national organization operating out of the New York/New Jersey area with members in the South and as far as Hawaii. About one-third of the members are Chemical Engineers who have developed specialties in computers, pharmaceuticals, etc.

This brief commentary is intended to get you the Guidance Counselor to encourage prospective college students to check out the listed courses in the colleges of most interest to them. The options and opportunities to meet special needs are certainly available and most schools are flexible.

As a final note, another path your students should consider is to obtain a 2-year A.B. degree from a community college and then transfer to a 4-year college. For students who might be on a budget this can really cut down on the cost of obtaining the degree and most colleges readily recruit and accept such transfers.

Dr. Bonacci is currently Executive Director of ACCCE, Inc. and operates his consulting business as Fibonacci Consulting, LLC. He can be contacted by e-mail at