What do Chemical Engineers Do?

It would take too long to list all the products that are impacted by chemical engineers, but knowing what industries employ them may help you comprehend the scope of their work.

Chemical engineers work in manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, design and construction, pulp and paper, petrochemicals, food processing, specialty chemicals, microelectronics, electronic and advanced materials, polymers, business services, biotechnology, and environmental health and safety industries, among others.

Within these industries, chemical engineers rely on their knowledge of mathematics and science—particularly chemistry— to overcome technical problems safely and economically. And, of course, they draw upon and apply their engineering knowledge to solve any technical challenges they encounter. Don't make the mistake of thinking that chemical engineers only “make things,” though. Their expertise is also applied in the areas of law, education, publishing, finance, and medicine, as well as in many other fields that require technical training.

Specifically, chemical engineers improve food processing techniques, and methods of producing fertilizers, to increase the quantity and quality of available food.

They also construct the synthetic fibers that make our clothes more comfortable and water resistant; they develop methods to mass-produce drugs, making them more affordable; and they create safer, more efficient methods of refining petroleum products, making energy and chemical sources more productive and cost effective.

Chemical engineers also develop solutions to environmental problems, such as pollution control and remediation.

And yes, they process chemicals, which are used to make or improve just about everything you see around you.

Chemical engineers face many of the same challenges that other professionals face, and they meet these challenges by applying their technical knowledge, communication and teamwork skills; the most up-to-date practices available; and hard work. Benefits include financial reward, recognition within industry and society, and the gratification that comes from working with the processes of nature to meet the needs of society.