Getting a bachelor’s degree is a hard and challenging step in life. And choosing your college major is but a step to the many challenges that may come with the university. Maybe you have not yet picked your degree major because you have so many interests and options.
Or if you ever find yourself asking the question, “Should I major in chemical engineering?” then we’ll help you explore more on that idea.
What is Chemical Engineering?
Most, if not all, products you use in your day-to-day life are works of a chemical engineer. But what does it mean to study chemical engineering?
Basically, chemical engineering deals with chemicals engineered to make products economically valuable for the community. It is a multidimensional branch of engineering that you study in combination with mathematics, economics, and sciences like biology, physics, and chemistry.
The combination of this knowledge aims to design, develop, and produce raw materials, as well as transform, transport, operate, and manage the industrial processes to turn them into valuable products.
The Work of a Chemical Engineer
Sure, a chemical engineer helps the community in many ways. But what exactly is your job as a chemical engineer?
As a chemical engineer, you turn ideas into products that people can use and benefit from. From the time you wake up to the moment you go to bed, the things you use and operate in between are the works of a chemical engineer.
In developing products, you apply chemistry, biology, physics, and math principles to solve problems and make products usable. But between the process of having an idea and turning it into a product, there are many things you need to do in order to complete the whole thing.
Here are the things you, as a chemical engineer, will have to do:
Knowledge is power; that much is true. Conducting the research helps you to develop new and improved processes for manufacturing your products. The research analysis also enables you to know what works and what does not work.
Being a chemical engineer, you are involved in establishing safety processes and procedures when developing a product, especially one that involves dangerous chemicals.
A chemical engineer influences process development in different ways. You can develop processes for liquid and gas components separation or use controlled methods to generate electrical currents.
A degree in chemical engineering enables you to manufacture products or equipment. This involves planning and designing layouts of the equipment.
A chemical engineer does not create a product in a one-try deal. They subject their products to trial and error or other experimental tests to monitor the performance of the processes in the production.
A chemical engineering major has to evaluate equipment and processes to ensure that they adhere and comply with regulations set by the law in terms of safety and environmental protection.
Cost estimation is also part of the work of a chemical engineer.
Why You Should Study Chemical Engineering
Getting a university degree in chemical engineering requires time, effort, and knowledge. Being interested in math and science sure helps, but it does not necessarily mean that you will excel in this field of engineering. But here is why chemical engineering is a good major and why you should study it.
Chemical engineering is an interesting degree that is useful and rewarding to society. When you decide to major in this field of engineering, you will acquire a wide set of skills that includes having technical knowledge of chemistry, biochemistry, engineering, materials science, and information technology.
Studying to be a chemical engineer, you will also learn more about economics, the environment, and safety and management in relation to science and engineering.
Another reason why you should study this major is that chemical engineers are highly employable, given the extent of their possible work jurisdictions, and you will have many exciting career choices.
Ultimately, the fact that chemical engineering has the potential to change the world and shape it for the better is a good enough reason why you should study for this degree. Out of the many things a chemical engineer does, the overall result of their work is improving the quality of people’s lives through the everyday products we use.
Their work helps to end hunger, poverty, and disease while saving and rehabilitating the environment.
Chemical Engineering Education History
The study and application of chemical engineering date back to the 19th century. The modern chemical engineering that we know today emerged when the large-scale operation of chemical manufacturing was developed in the mid-19th century.
With the manufacturing of chemicals increasing in demand, this led to the rise of combining resources for more extensive operations, causing the transition of the craft industry to a science-based one.
George E. Davis became a household name in chemical engineering history when the British chemical consultant founded the Chemical Trade Journal in 1887, where he published his ideas on the field. The journal became a basis for the famous 12-lecture series at the Manchester Technical College.
In 1901, the first textbook on the subject, The Handbook of Chemical Engineering was published. The first four-year curriculum in the field of Chemical Engineering was started in 1988 by Lewis M. Norton, a professor of chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was inspired by Davis’ lectures.
Having a university degree in chemical engineering can be rewarding in terms of finances as it is a steady industry, despite being a competitive one. There are so many things a chemical engineering degree is useful as it has several areas of specialty.
Chemical processes that happen in plants and animals are the focus of this field. Companies, especially those that deal with food, hire chemical engineers to improve yields with better safe pest control products for farmers and food distributors.
With the continuing increase of the general population, working to improve the quality and extend the life of food products is one career that you can do as a chemical engineer where you make crops more disease-resistant and safer to consume.
Petroleum and Petrochemical
A chemical engineer seeks better ways to find and extract oil and natural gas, with petroleum being a finite resource. Oil companies hire chemical engineers to manage existing plants and refineries and find new drilling locations to help develop better ways to tap overlooked sources of oil and gas.
With a degree in chemical engineering, you can oversee the quality control of product development.
Along with medical researchers, chemical engineers help design and operate equipment for drug production.
Many plants hire professionals to supervise their equipment and processes and maintain production levels, and chemical engineers can do the job.
Pros and Cons of Chemical Engineering
Chemical engineering is a reasonably interesting field to work in, but it also has downsides. Working in the field provides you with a high level of salary and job flexibility ranging from the food industry to textile. And ultimately, when you are a chemical engineer, you are able to make a meaningful and valuable contribution and advancement to society as a whole.
But it’s not all bursts of sunshine and rainbows, as being a chemical engineer subjects you to a hazardous work environment and lack of free time with the consistent changes and advances in the field.
Certification and Licensure
As a chemical engineer, you rarely need a license to get a job, but having one can enhance your job prospects. Some states will also require you to have a professional engineering license. You need four years of work experience, pass the state exam, and hold a degree from an accredited program to get a license.
Whether the state expects you to have a license or not, most chemical engineers seek certification from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. This organization has set the standard for the chemical engineering profession for nearly 80 years.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is chemical engineering a hard major?
Any university degree is hard if you’re not interested in it. Undeniably, chemical engineering is a challenging major as it involves a lot of math and physics with a high number of university degree-level exams.
But if you’re interested and comfortable with the scientific requirements, can commit to work hard and give your best, and are sincerely interested in the subject matter, a chemical engineering degree may just be for you.
What is the difference between a degree in chemistry and a chemical engineering degree?
Both a chemist and a chemical engineer deals with chemicals, but they differ in innovation and degree. According to most, the difference can basically be summed up with the chemist wearing a laboratory coat and a chemical engineer wearing a hard hat.
Chemists deal with the details of chemical structures, reactions, properties, and other underlying principles and theories. They construct new materials and study their properties and reaction mechanisms using different laboratory tools.
Chemical engineers have the basic knowledge in chemistry, focusing more on heat and mass flow, thermodynamics, and mathematics for necessary calculations in these areas. They scale up methods for more significant amounts of materials, improving efficiency and economics of industrial processes.
Choosing a major in university is not a matter to take lightly, and it is not a decision you have to make by yourself. Making an informed decision certainly helps you take the right path in university.
And whatever major you decide to take on, it is crucial to choose one that interests you and brings challenges to your career to help you grow and reach your full potential. It also helps to know that no major is too hard if you’re willing to put in the effort and time to learn it.