Chemical Engineers Share Insights on Career Opportunities

CEP's (Chemical Engineering Progress) biennial salary survey is presented in the June 2017 issue. Read the full article in CEP in print or online 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?

Responses varied considerably, but certain themes did seem to recur.

  • A number expressed how broad-ranging the opportunities are for chemical engineers in general:
  • A ChE degree is still a great degree and allows for employment in a diverse range of fields and professions.

  • But looking at more specifics, some pointed out that while there are jobs, graduates may want to consider seeking opportunities and advantages outside traditional areas:
  • Chem E grads continue to be well recognized over other engineering fields as excellent candidates for positions throughout manufacturing operations that are non-engineering and non-technical.

    And:

    Chemical engineers are increasingly finding work in allied fields, rather than in traditional chemical engineering fields.  I do a considerable amount of mechanical engineering and have for a while, because I work for an electric utility. I also do a considerable amount of chemical engineering, specifically water purification. I think integrating skills from several fields is increasingly necessary.

  • Meanwhile, when answers were more specific to an industry, it seemed clear that the past year was not easy for some. Multiple respondents expressed great concern over a downturn in oil and gas:
  • 2016 was a tough year for the oil and gas market, and it did seem to affect the jobs in the area. Current employer was under a hiring freeze.

    While some expressed an uptick in some areas for hiring among recent grads, more-experienced engineers pointed out cost-cutting—and sometimes ageism—behind the new hiring, and signaled the importance of achieving a healthy work-life balance:

    Companies are very cost conscious and will likely hire young to offset cost of aging workforce. Please inform the youth of the opportunity cost (e.g., work-life balance, sanity, etc.) versus success of gaining employment. 

  • Others saw hiring opportunities and specifically when job-seekers are flexible, citing opportunities for candidates who can consider relocation:
  • Employment demand appears to be strong overall, though the specifics are changing. For example, if you change jobs you may have to change industries or geographic location to find a new position quickly or without pay reduction.

  • At the same time, some saw opportunities going overseas due to employers' expressed cost constraints of hiring domestically:
  • A lot of EPC work is now being moved out of the US to low cost centers, such as India. The advent of cloud computing and new software technology allows much more outsourcing than was possible even a couple of years ago. Wages are depressed and many US chemical engineers have been layed off while the largest EPC companies are expanding abroad.

    Share your own insights on Engage:

    Agree? Disagree? What is the most important observation you have about the state of chemical engineering and/or the current employment situation in your industry? 

    To provide a visual representation of the data we received, we eliminated the terms "chemical," "engineering," and "engineer" and created a word cloud that gives a weighted representation of words used in the responses:

    Comments

    Oke Abiola's picture

    The chemical engineers are creators of opportunities. As long as innovation persists, there'd always be an engagement for the chemical engineers

    Louis Mielke's picture

    Chemical engineering has always been subject to change. There are mature chemical engineering opportunities such as the oil and gas industry and new areas such as renewable energy and the production of water from the sea and effluent. I am in South Africa where the chemical industry is relatively small. The result is that most chemical engineering graduates successfully develop careers in other fields, as there are not sufficient chemical engineering opportunities in the country.Those who want to remain in chemical engineering leave to find opportunities in USA, Australia and similar countries.