There are approximately 33,900 chemical engineers working in the United States. While the majority of chemical engineers (about 55 percent) work in manufacturing industries, others are employed by federal and state government agencies, colleges and universities, and research and testing services. Demand for chemical engineers’ services depends largely on demand for the products of various manufacturing industries. Employment growth will be sustained by the ability of these engineers to stay on the forefront of new, emerging technologies.
Most chemical engineers obtain their first position through company recruiters sent to college campuses. Employers also value practical experience, so cooperative engineering programs, in which students earn college credit for structured job experience, are valuable as well and can provide an opportunity for an entry-level position.
Engineering graduates will also find opportunities through professional organizations and on the Internet. Chemical engineers may also contact colleges and universities regarding positions as part-time teaching or laboratory assistants if they wish to continue study for a graduate degree.
Typically, new recruits begin as trainees or process engineers. They often begin work under the supervision of seasoned engineers. Many participate in special training programs designed to orient them to company processes, procedures, policies, and products. This allows the company to determine where the new personnel may best fulfill their needs. After this training period, new employees often rotate positions to get an all-around experience in working for the company.
Entry-level personnel usually advance to project or production engineers after learning the ropes in product manufacturing. They may then be assigned to sales and marketing. A large percentage of engineers no longer do engineering work by the tenth year of their employment. At that point, they often advance to supervisory or management positions. An M.B.A. enhances their opportunities for promotion. A doctoral degree is essential for university teaching or supervisory research positions. Some engineers may decide at this point that they prefer to start their own consulting firms. Continued advancement, raises, and increased responsibility are not automatic but depend on sustained demonstration of leadership skills.
Tips for Entry
Read publications such as Chemical Engineering Process (http://www.aiche.org/resources/publications/cep) to learn more about trends in the industry and potential employers.
Visit the following Web sites for job listings:
Join professional associations such as the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) to access training and networking resources, mentoring and employment opportunities, and industry publications.
Participate in internships or part-time jobs that are arranged by your college’s career services office. Additionally, visit the AIChE's Web site, http://internships.aiche.org, to view internship listings.