What’s the State of Chemical Engineering Employment in 2013?

CEP's Chemical Engineering Progress biennial salary survey is presented in the June 2013 issue. Look for it in print, on AIChE.org/CEP, or on a future post here. In addition to questions about facts, figures, and demographic data, respondents were asked three open-ended questions. The most interesting of them was...

Are there any observations on the state of chemical engineering employment you would care to share?

Following is a summary of some of the most prominent and more interesting comments we received about the state of chemical engineering employment. Want to share your thoughts? Please comment at the bottom of this post to let others know what you're thinking.

Positive comments about employment opportunities were more prominent than negative, including from some in hiring roles:

"The shale gas boom has done wonders for opportunities." "It feels like there are lots of opportunities available right now. I get contacted by recruiters with high quality job opportunities several times a month." "The market seems to be improving. Good talent seems difficult to find and recruiter calls are becoming increasingly intrusive." "Employment opportunities look to be improving, particularly in oil and gas related fields." "Best I have seen the opportunites in many years." "We can not find and retain the talent we need.

Jobs, but not necessarily for all

Meanwhile, others seem to be struggling with finding job--particularly those just out of school.

"Far too many of our recent graduates (who are very strong and qualified students) are still looking for employment." "I earned my Ph.D. in chemical engineering in 2011 and have been unemployed since graduation, working only part-time jobs." "I am having a very hard time finding an entry level position." "Tough to find a job in Michigan."

Part of the job-search difficulties may be because employers seeking job candidates are not necessarily looking to fill entry-level positions and are very selective in hiring.

"To quote a recruiter: 'there is 2% unemployment in the engineering fields, yet there are jobs that are unfilled. Employers are looking for the right candidate not the almost right candidate.'"

Geography a factor in finding jobs

An opinion shared a number of times was that willingness to move for a job was a key factor, as jobs are not evenly distributed geographically.

"Chemical engineering has suffered from some of the same challenges as other professions within the current economic climate. That said, I don't know any chemical engineers who are involuntarily unemployed if they are willing to relocate. My fellow PhD gaduates have all found robust careers in a range of industries, government labs, and university settings, demonstrating the continued value of a PhD in chemical engineering." "Chemical engineers are in high demand. An engineer that is willing to relocate can get a very large salary increase."

Be ready for opportunity

One respondent in a hiring position made this comment, that may serve as valuable advice to job seekers, and particularly first-time job seekers:

I have hired three chemical engineers in the last three years, with two of the openings for entry level positions. I found that many of the recent graduates were totally unprepared for the interviews, lacked technical writing and problem solving abilities, and were either too quiet (didn't speak when given the opening) or too full of themselves and their perceived abilities to be quiet.

In short, when you get an interview, make sure you're well prepared to show your best side.

Keeping up with change Some pointed out the flexibility of a chemical engineering degree and noted that diversity of experience was important to remain vital in a career:

"Be prepared to work in areas of "blended engineering" where chemical engineering principles walk hand in hand with mechanical, civil, electrical, and/or industrial engineering." "Be willing to diversify because you will excel."

Here's a word cloud that graphically represts the most common words in all responses about chemical engineering employment, with larger works corresponding to greater frequency of use:

Clearly, not everyone's thoughts and opinions are represented here, so if you think we've left out an important thought or viewpoint, share it with us below!

What are your thoughts on these comments and on the state of the industry?