Is a Chemical Engineering Degree Right for You?

An online bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering is a good choice for students who are interested in how concepts from science and engineering come together to solve real-world problems. Chemical engineers can not only help improve or repurpose raw materials so that they can be made into more useful products, but they can also help establish better engineering processes that involve the use of chemicals. Prospective chemical engineering students should have a fondness for advanced mathematics and the hard sciences, and must be willing to continue their education after their degree is complete to stay on top of new advancements in the field.

Advice for Earning Your Chemical Engineering Degree Online

Prospective students should know that no accredited bachelor’s degrees in chemical engineering are offered fully online. Even programs that offer primarily online course work will incorporate campus-based labs and proctored exams. Working students will need to make arrangements for any campus-based courses well in advance so that they can adequately fit them into their schedules, particularly if the school’s campus is located out of state. In addition, the best online bachelor’s degree programs in chemical engineering are offered through programs accredited by ABET, which accredits engineering programs offered by regionally accredited universities.

Students should also be prepared to spend longer than four years in an online chemical engineering program, as such programs may be delivered on a part-time basis and can take six or more years to complete.

Required Courses

All engineering degrees are anchored by prerequisites in advanced mathematics, the hard sciences, and general engineering courses, including calculus, chemistry, physics, and statics and dynamics. Students conclude their engineering program with one or more engineering design projects that demonstrate their skills in the discipline. Courses directly related to your major might include:

  • Introduction to Chemical Engineering
  • Biochemical Processes
  • Stoichiometry
  • Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics
  • Statistics and Numerical Methods in Engineering
  • Transport/Unit Operations

Common Career Paths

Some specific examples of possible careers for chemical engineering majors are outlined below. Bear in mind that salaries for these professions can vary greatly depending on your experience, size and type of employer, and the area of the country you live in.

Chemical Engineers

  • Expected Growth: 6%
  • Average Annual Salary: $99,440

Chemical engineers solve problems involved with the production of chemicals, drugs, fuel, food, and other products by employing their knowledge of science and engineering. They also solve problems related to the manufacturing process involved in producing these materials and in the manufacturing equipment itself. A wide range of industries outside traditional chemical manufacturing also hire chemical engineers, including the energy, electronics, health care, and biotechnology industries, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). A bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering is required, and the above information on employment growth and salary figures were provided by the BLS.

Chemists and Material Scientists

  • Expected Growth: 4%
  • Average Annual Salary: $74,780 (for chemists) / $86,600 (for materials scientists

Chemists and materials scientists study how different materials and chemical substances are composed, and often apply their research to help develop new and better products, processes, and materials. In a lab or using sophisticated computer modeling software, they may test an improved chemical compound or process and record their observations on the compound’s properties and capabilities and how the process worked. A minimum of a bachelor’s degree is required for positions in the field, with the most common degrees being in chemistry, physics, and engineering, but a Ph.D. may be required for positions that involve leading research teams, the BLS explains. The above job outlook and salary average were provided by the BLS.

Chemical Engineering Instructors

  • Expected Growth: 17%
  • Average Annual Salary: $97,260

Some chemical engineers decide to pursue university teaching careers, where they teach the next generation of engineers what they need to know about chemical engineering principles and assess a student’s grasp of the material through exams, projects, and labs. Some chemical engineering instructors conduct research and publish scholarly work, develop chemical engineering curriculum, or serve on committees in engineering departments. To pursue an academic career such as this, a student would need to build on their bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering with a master’s and doctorate, as the Ph.D. is the standard degree level for college professors. The employment growth projections and salary figures listed above were gathered from the BLS.

Engineering Managers

  • Expected Growth: 17%
  • Average Annual Salary: $129,350

Engineering managers set goals for teams of engineers and technicians and direct the work of their team, whether it be engineering production, testing, quality control, or maintenance. They also provide oversight and make sure that engineering work is being done safely and at a high level of quality, and are typically responsible for an engineering team’s budget and hiring. A minimum of a bachelor’s degree in engineering is expected in the field, but many years of experience are crucial for obtaining these positions. The job outlook and salary figures provided above were gathered from the BLS.


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