Chemical engineering is defined differently depending on who you ask. According to the University of Illinois, it is “the study and practice of transforming substances at large scales for the tangible improvement of the human condition” while the Institution of Engineers Australia defines it as engineering “concerned with the ways in which raw materials are changed into useful and commercial end products.” While these definitions may have said it in different ways, chemical engineering is seen as the branch of engineering that, on an industrial scale, turns raw materials into products of value to society. Examples of these products range from food and drinks to shampoos and metals.
Entrance into a chemical engineering degree program varies from institution to institution. Some universities require you to take an entrance exam, while some will take into consideration national or standard exams. A number of universities also take into consideration advanced placement exams, while some consider transfer credits for post-secondary students or applicants.
Since the degree program involves the different sciences and mathematics, a good background in these subjects may be required. An applicant’s intent may also be taken into consideration, as some schools require a letter of intent or motivation letter. Competitive programs might also have interviews as part of the admissions process.
For a complete list of requirements, you are advised to check out or contact the institution you are interested in applying to.
Aside from courses focused on chemical engineering, the curriculum would generally include courses in calculus or other mathematics, material science, organic chemistry, and physical chemistry. Some schools may also offer business, management and entrepreneurship courses as part of their chemical engineering degree program.
During the duration of the program, courses may be taught in lectures, seminars laboratory classes and fieldwork. As such, assessment may be through examinations, experiments and practical work. Students taking chemical engineering as their major may also be asked to undertake a thesis, major project or work placement in the latter years of the program.
Most universities provide specialization options for their students, either through optional electives or as a mandatory part of the degree program. There are many specialization options presented by institutions, though the availability would also depend on the offerings of each university.
Below is a short list of some specializations offered as part of a chemical engineering undergraduate degree:
The accreditation of a degree usually depends on the country where the degree is awarded. In most cases, countries have their own accrediting systems for universities, students and graduates.
Some countries or states may seek a license or certification from chemical engineering graduates who want to work professionally as engineers. A part of the licensing process may be passing a comprehensive exam or board exam and gaining experience in the field and possibly a postgraduate degree as well.
A degree in chemical engineering can take anywhere from three to five years. In some cases, it could take longer. The exact period of time would depend on the university of your choice and the country wherein it is located. The timeframe of study can also depend on whether or not the program is an integrated program that takes longer than a regular bachelor’s but results in a master’s degree.
There are also various degrees available for chemical engineering graduates at the master’s and doctorate level, involving intensive research, coursework and experience for candidates looking to deepen their knowledge of chemical engineering.
In the United Kingdom, almost 70% of chemical engineering graduates enter work associated directly with engineering and building. Aside from chemical engineer, other positions that a graduate of a chemical engineering course can hold are energy engineer, and petroleum engineer. Specifically in manufacturing and production, chemical engineering graduates can take positions as process specialist, product scientist/developer, production manager, quality manager and manufacturing engineer. Work in these positions can be obtained across different industrial sectors producing a wide variety of products. For more information read our article on the 5 top jobs for engineering graduates.
For graduates who want to explore positions not necessarily directly related to chemical engineering, the transferable skills gained in the program will be vital. These skills include numeracy, the ability to solve problems, project management, teamwork, attention to detail, and research skills. For example, some chemical engineering graduates are able to take positions in the fields of business and finance.
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