A Chemical research engineer's job description is to research and develop new chemical products and processes. They work with chemists and other scientists to identify potential applications for new chemicals and to test their feasibility. A Chemical research engineer also develops methods for manufacturing new chemicals and evaluates the safety and environmental impact of proposed products.
Type of industry
Chemical research engineers usually work for companies that manufacture chemicals or develop new methods for producing them, such as oil refining companies and manufacturers of plastics and other non-metallic materials. However, some work for government agencies or research facilities.
Where can one work as a chemical research engineer?
A chemical research engineer can work in private industry, for the government, or for a non-profit organization. Private industry is where most chemical research engineers work. They may be employed by a company that manufactures chemicals or by a company that uses chemicals in its products. Some chemical research engineers work for the government, developing new weapons or defensive systems. Others work for non-profit organizations that promote environmental safety.
What will you do in this position?
A chemical research engineer will do different things depending on where they work. Chemical research engineers who work for a chemical company may assist chemists in developing new products or conducting quality control tests on chemicals produced by the company.
A chemical research engineer at a government agency might help find and develop new sources of energy, such as biofuels and solar cells, and improve existing technologies to reduce environmental pollutants.
Responsibilities of a chemical research engineer
- Research and develop new chemical products and processes: You may research new applications for chemicals or test the feasibility of a process that produces a certain chemical.
- Develop methods for manufacturing new chemicals: In addition to developing methods to produce existing chemicals, you might also help manufacture new chemicals.
- Evaluate the safety and environmental impact of proposed products: You might be asked to determine whether a newly developed product can be safely produced and how it will affect the environment.
- Solve problems related to chemical production: If a chemical is not being produced correctly, you might need to solve this problem by adjusting a process or troubleshooting an entire system.
- Work with chemists and other scientists to identify potential applications for new chemicals: You may work with other chemists to identify potential applications for a certain chemical.
- Provide technical support to sales staff: When you develop a new product, the sales staff will need to be familiar with it so they can explain it to potential customers.
- Develop training materials: As a chemical research engineer, you might also be responsible for developing training materials on how to use or produce a particular chemical.
- Supervise lower-level employees: You may need to oversee the work of less experienced employees.
- Stay up-to-date on current technology: Keeping up with current technology is important in this field, so you might attend conferences or read journals related to chemical engineering.
Required and extra skills
- Strong analytical skills: You must be able to identify problems with chemicals or processes, so analytical skills are important for this job.
- Ability to speak well: Because you will frequently interact with chemists, sales staff, and customers, you need to be able to speak well during presentations and carry out detailed discussions about products or issues related to them.
- Good leadership ability: You may need to supervise other employees or lead projects that involve the development of new chemicals.
- Knowledge of computers: You will need to be familiar with computers for tasks such as designing processes or analyzing data.
- Knowledge of statistics: In order to evaluate the safety and environmental impact of a proposed product, you must be able to understand and use statistics.
- Knowledge of engineering principles: A working knowledge of engineering principles is necessary in order to develop new methods for manufacturing chemicals or solving production problems.
- Understanding of chemistry: You must have a strong understanding of chemistry in order to work with chemists and other scientists.
- Expertise in mathematics: In order to solve production problems, you may need to use advanced mathematical techniques.
What type of education is needed to become a chemical research engineer?
A master's degree is required for this position, and many employers prefer candidates who have a Ph.D. or professional chemical engineer license as well. Some federal agencies require employees to possess a bachelor's degree in engineering, physical science, computer science, or mathematics together with at least 24 semester hours in chemistry or related subjects.
How much do they make?
The salary of a chemical research engineer can vary depending on the level of education and experience. For example, a few years ago the median salary for those with a master's degree was $96,000. Those with a Ph.D. or professional chemical engineer license earned a median salary of $108,000.
The median salary for someone with a master's degree in chemical engineering is $96,000. However, this number can vary depending on factors such as experience and level of education.
Other benefits and considerations
This job is very versatile, so if you are interested in doing research or working more on the production side, you have this option. There are often opportunities for advancement.
How does a typical day of a chemical research engineer look like?
No day is the same for a chemical research engineer, but they might spend time doing the following:
- Analyzing data
- Designing processes
- Supervising employees
- Troubleshooting problems
- Meeting with clients or scientists to discuss products or issues related to them
- Presenting at conferences or meetings
- Updating their knowledge of current technology and best practices.
So as you can see, there is a lot that goes into the job of a chemical research engineer. It requires a strong understanding of chemistry, engineering principles, mathematics, and computer science. In addition, one must be able to communicate well and have excellent leadership skills.
Do I need a license to do this job?
In order to become a chemical research engineer, typically one must have at least a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from an accredited institution. You can learn more about licensing requirements through state licensure boards.
Is it important for me to stay up-to-date on current technology?
Yes, it is extremely important for chemical research engineers to keep up with current technology. In order to remain competitive in this field, you should be familiar with emerging technologies and their potential for use in manufacturing.
What are some safety precautions chemical research engineers should follow?
When dealing with chemicals, it is very important to take safety precautions. For example, many chemical research engineers may need fire extinguishers nearby due to the nature of their work. When working with machines or equipment, you should check that they're turned off before beginning your work. You should also frequently inspect your workspace for any possible safety hazards.
How to apply for this position?
If you are interested in becoming a chemical research engineer, the best way to start is by completing a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering or a related field. Once you have obtained a degree, you can then look for jobs that require a master's degree. Networking with people already in the field is also a great way to learn more about the job and find out about job openings.
The process of applying for a job as a chemical research engineer usually involves submitting your resume and cover letter to the company you are interested in working for. You may also be asked to complete an interview with a member of the hiring staff. Some companies also require applicants to take a test to measure their knowledge of engineering and chemistry.
What questions can you ask?
When interviewing for a position in chemical research, it is important that you prepare ahead of time. A few questions you may want to ask are:
What tasks do you perform on an average day? Do employees get any continuing education or professional development training? Can you tell me about the company's history and current projects/products?
Answers to these questions can help determine if this career path is right for you. The more knowledge you have about the job before applying, the better your chance of landing it after interviewing.
How long does it take before being hired as a chemical research engineer?
The process of being hired as a chemical research engineer usually takes at least a few months. This includes submitting your resume and cover letter to the company, completing an interview, and taking any necessary tests.
Internship for chemical research engineers
A great way to learn more about chemical research engineering and determine if this is the ideal job for you is by finding an internship. You can look for internship possibilities on the website of the American Institute for Chemical Engineers.
What companies hire for this position?
Chemical research engineers work for many different kinds of companies such as:
- Oil and gas refineries
- Biodiesel production plants
- Pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers
- Biotechnology firms
- Electric power generation facilities
- Consulting firms that focus on energy production
- Environmental consulting agencies
- Agricultural production facilities
In the United States, you can find jobs as a chemical research engineer with companies such as:
- BASF Corporation
- Marathon Oil Company
- Shell International Exploration and Production Inc.
In addition, these organizations may hire those interested in this career.
Please keep in mind that each job posting may require different qualifications and experience. The company will provide information about the application process and required credentials for that particular position. If you want to choose the right company for you, it is important to do some research beforehand. Ask yourself these questions when applying for a job:
Do I have enough experience in this type of work? Do I want to work for a large or small company? Can the company offer me opportunities to learn and grow?
Once you answer these questions, you will have a better idea of where your career path might take you.
What are my chances of finding employment as a chemical research engineer?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there are about 23,410 people who hold jobs in this field. For most posts, you need to have a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering or at least 2 years of experience. You can also consider becoming an intern before applying for full-time work.
Are there any other positions like this?
Chemical research engineers work closely with chemists, so those who possess strong analytical skills and good leadership abilities might also enjoy the positions of biological scientist, microbiologist, or biochemist. In addition, a chemical research engineer needs to stay up-to-date on current technology, so if you enjoy reading about emerging technologies and learning new things you may be a good fit for a job as a product analyst, market research analyst, or biomedical engineer.
Career paths for a chemical research engineer
After you spend some time working in this field, you may decide to become a supervisor or manager of the chemical research team. However, for this career path, you need either a master's or doctoral degree and at least 7 years of experience in your chosen field; it is also necessary to obtain licenses such as EPA, DOT, and OSHA certifications.
Chemical research engineers can also become patent agents or hold jobs as environmental scientists. A large portion of engineers finds employment in private companies such as oil and gas refineries or biotechnology firms.
Some choose to obtain a position at consulting firms that focus on energy production or work with electric power generation plants. Chemical research engineers have many different job options available to them after gaining significant experience in this field.
The position outlook
The employment growth rate for this profession is 6% during the last 10 years, which is considered average. As far as the level of competition, it is high because there are many qualified applicants for each job opening. This means that you need strong credentials in order to obtain a job in this field. The competitive ratio for this job is 20:1.
The perspective of a chemical research engineer
If you are someone who likes to work with new technology and solve problems, then a career as a chemical research engineer may be right for you. This profession offers many opportunities to learn and grow, and you will likely never stop learning new things. Additionally, this job allows you to work in a variety of industries, so you have the chance to explore many different areas.