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Thread: Looking for Career Information on Chemical Engineering

  1. #1 Looking for Career Information on Chemical Engineering 
    New Member
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    Jan 2012
    Recently, I have been debating a number of career paths (mostly those involving Science) and I was wondering if anyone could answer a few questions regarding what the typical Chemical Engineer does? How is this position different from being a pure Chemist? How does this position differ from that of an Electrical Engineer? Does the job itself involve a lot of scientific knowledge, or is it mostly just trial/error and simulation? Instead of just a Bachelors degree, is this field of engineering something to consider getting a Masters/PhD in?

    I have done some searching, but all I can so far are VERY generalized job descriptions and clearly biased points of view. I am looking for a specific and blunt answer if possible. If there are any actual Chemical Engineers replying, I would love to hear about your experiences and position. I'm not looking for any information regarding salary or job demand.

    Thanks in Advance
    -- TC

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  3. #2  
    Forum Isotope Bunbury's Avatar
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    Sep 2007
    The job depends on whether you get hired into a production company (oil, gas, chemicals) or an engineering firm. In both cases a chemical engineer will certainly work with simulation programs, and must understand the basic chemistry as well as chemical engineering unit operations, reaction thermodynamics, heat transfer and so on. You would work with electrical engineers, who would be responsible for ensuring safe and adequate power supply to pump and compressor motors, lighting, etc. The chemical engineer is responsible for the moles and the electrical engineer is responsible for the electrons. You would also work with instrumentation engineers and mechanical engineers.

    In a production company such as a major oil company you would most likely start as an operator in the plant climbing over equipment, doing the dirty work that more senior engineers delegate to you. You could stay in that environment if you like it, or you could move on to a more office based job, running the simulations for new, existing and revamped plant, and this could be focused on one refinery location, or you might be in central engineering where you would work for whichever refinery or chemical plant in the corporation needed help.

    In the engineering firm you need the same basic skills, but would work in the office, with occasional opportunities to go to the field, and you would work on projects for multiple different production companies over time.

    I'm not sure that there is much added value in a higher degree. I know several chemical engineers with a masters or Ph.D. but they are basically doing the same jobs as the ones with a B.S. Having said this, the major oil companies all have research divisions, where they are looking at alternative energy and carbon sequestration, as well as technologies for improving production, manufacturing and refining. ExxonMobil has a huge complex in Baytown, TX that includes a group that does this (housed in a building called the White House). Some of their higher degree engineers end up there.

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  4. #3  
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    Sep 2008
    A Chemical Engineer don't need as good scientific knowledge as a Chemist.However, as the name says it needs better engineering considerations, like Bunbury explained very detailly. Something supplement, as a Chemist you can do things in your own schedule, but as a Chemical Engineer, your first job is to do things to fit the company's profits, that means non-ideal environment like labs, more considerations on cost, safety and time consuming, etc. In China, only men get some good jobs as Chemical Engineer with the Bachelor's degree, it's even worse to master degree students considering their two-year longer study, just like Bunbury said. But, a Ph.D seems to be very good, since the industry still have needs to get better design. In this global world, I assume it may be the same in USA.
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