Education and Training Requirements
A solid educational foundation for biochemical engineering includes mathematics and science courses. While in high school, take algebra, geometry, calculus, trigonometry, chemistry, physics, and biology. Biochemical engineers use computers and software in their work, so take computer science courses. Strong writing and communications skills are also essential, and English courses and learning a foreign language are beneficial. Round out your education by getting involved in science and engineering clubs and other extracurricular activities.
Biochemical engineers are required to have, at minimum, a bachelor's degree in biochemical engineering or chemical engineering. Some positions, such as research jobs and faculty or administration positions, require a graduate degree.
Chemical engineering programs must be approved by ABET and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE). Some colleges offer five-year engineering programs that lead to a bachelor's and master's degree. College courses include biochemistry, chemistry, physics, and biology, as well as classes that focus on the design, analysis, and control of biological, chemical, and physical properties. In addition to classroom work, students complete laboratory and field studies. Many colleges and universities also offer internships and cooperative programs, through which students gain practical, real-world experience.
In graduate school, students specialize in one aspect of biochemical or chemical engineering, such as chemical kinetics or biotechnology. Biochemical engineers must continue their education throughout their careers, and many companies encourage this continuing education of their employees. Biochemical engineers who return to graduate school while employed may have their tuition reimbursed by their employer, or they may receive a promotion and higher pay upon graduation. A master's degree is required for management engineering positions. Biochemical engineers must also stay on top of technological advances in the field.
Other Education or Training
Biochemical engineers have access to continuing education programs offered by professional associations, such as the Biochemical Engineering Society, which offers educational forums and conferences. The American Chemical Society offers classes on computers, statistics, special topics in chemical engineering, management, and technical writing. Student members of the National Society of Professional Engineers can watch webinars on topics such as career success in engineering, ethics and professionalism, how to land a first job in the field, among other topics. The Society of Women Engineers also offers webinars and other education resources on career development, leadership, and special issues for women in engineering. The American Institute of Chemical Engineers, Society of Manufacturing Engineers, and the American Society for Engineering Education also provide ongoing education. Contact these organizations for more information.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
Biochemical engineers who work in manufacturing can receive voluntary certification from the Society of Manufacturing Engineers.
Biochemical engineers and chemical engineers who provide services directly to the public must be licensed. Licensing requirements in all 50 states and the District of Columbia usually include graduation from an accredited engineering school, passing a written exam, and having four or more years of engineering experience. About one in three chemical engineers are licensed as registered engineers. There are two levels of licensing for engineers: engineers in training (EITs) and professional engineers (PEs).
After graduation, engineers who pass the Fundamentals of Engineering examination are designated as engineers in training or engineer interns or intern engineers. The EIT certification usually is valid for 10 years. With several years of appropriate work experience, EITs are qualified for the second examination, the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam, to gain full PE licensure. The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (https://www.ncees.org) administers the exam.
PEs have graduated from an accredited engineering curriculum, have four years of engineering experience, and have passed a written exam. Engineering graduates can start the licensure process while they are working and before they have achieved four years of work experience.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
Take as many math and science (especially biochemistry) classes as possible. Companies look favorably on job candidates who have held internships in biochemical engineering, have an advanced degree in biochemical engineering, and one or more years of prior work experience in the biochemical engineering or related field.
Biochemical engineers enjoy identifying and solving problems. They must have strong laboratory and mechanical skills to conduct their work successfully and be accurate and honest in reporting their findings. They work well alone as well as on teams with people from different disciplines and backgrounds. They are curious, inquisitive, open-minded, creative, and adaptable. Biochemical engineers also have initiative and leadership skills.