There are plenty of factors to consider when looking at a career in chemical engineering, including job opportunities and salaries, but perhaps the most important is: what will the job really be like? The best way to get a grasp on the daily life of a chemical engineer is to visit the kinds of facilities where they work for a firsthand look at what they do.
Opportunities to see where chemical engineers work
One possibility to explore job sites is to take part in visits organized by Young Professional (YP) groups and AIChE local sections (see this article about the STS-AIChE visit to a ConocoPhillips facility in Texas.) You may also want to pursue opportunities through career and guidance counselors, or look into internships through your school or through the AIChE's internship listings for more in-depth exposure.
But if those are not possibilities--or if you're simply eager to know more right away--I've also put together a virtual experience that is the next best thing. Also please note that I've included a few resources at the end of this article to help you learn more about being a chemical engineer, including information on career opportunities, starting salaries for chemical engineers, and more.
How let's get started with the virtual tour. Here's a look at a young engineer involved in oil and gas exploration:
Here is a video taken at Shell Chemical's cracker complex in Singapore:
And finally a virtual visit, in slide form, to a fertilizer plant in Florida.
Resources on careers in chemical engineering
Check out AIChE's brochure "Chemical Engineers in Action. Innovation at Work." There are articles dealing with energy, materials, biotechnology, electronics, and more. I was particularly struck by the article "Chemical Engineers and Energy," which covers the basic refining and cracking technologies and then goes on to discuss engineering aspects of various synthetic fuels processes, hydrogen and fuel cells, renewable feedstocks and solar energy.
If you'd like to see the latest on starting salaries and employment prospects for chemical engineers, check out these links:
Peter Spitz is a recent addition to the ChEnected blogging team. He has spent his entire career in the chemical and energy industries, working for a large oil company, for a research and engineering company in petrochemicals, and as a consultant to the global chemical industry. He was also the founder and president of a respected international consulting firm, Chem Systems Inc., which was acquired by IBM in 1998.To learn more about him, read his complete bio. Also visit his personal blog at chemengineeringposts.com
Photo: AdamCohn via Flickr.