2 answers

I recently graduated with a degree in Chemical Engineering and I'm trying to figure out what my options are and where I would fit in well.

Updated Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Hi all. I recently graduated with a degree in Chemical Engineering and I'm trying to figure out what my options are and where I would fit in well. My main reason for completing a chem eng degree was its versatility. At 18 I didn't know what I wanted to do but I knew this degree would give me options. I thought by the time I was done I would know what-what I'm passionate about but this has not been the case. My second reason for choosing this major was that I saw it as an opportunity to help people and create solutions. By my final year I was about 80% sure I did not want to be a chemical engineer but I decided to do an internship on a chemical engineering plant anyway before I made a decision. I've really enjoyed the problem solving and project scoping part of the job but I'm concerned about the stress and long hours that come with the job. I don't necessarily have a passion for the field. I'm hoping one of you can help me understand the other options I might have and possible career avenues I can look into. I really enjoy meeting new people and learning about sustainability. I've looked into jobs in SHEQ field as I assume my chem eng background would help but I'm not sure of the exact tasks involved. Thank you for taking the time to read my question and your response will be greatly appreciated.

#chemicaleng #chemical-engineering #sheq #engineering #career #career-advice #sustainability #college

2 answers

Serah’s Answer

Updated Seattle, Washington

Congratulations on getting to know yourself professionally! I had a similar experience. I earned my undergraduate degree in Behavioral Sciences, but chose not to proceed to graduate school in that field due to what I learned about it along the way. Now, I use those skills as a marketing and communications consultant and business owner.

What helped me was identifying my transferable skills that I enjoyed using (writing, analysis, theories), and then trying a few other directions. I first became a journalist, then a PR person for a nonprofit, and then used my tech ability to get work in software marketing. Later, I learned about sustainability and I earned an MBA in Sustainable Business from Presidio Graduate Institute. I'm now a member of the International Society for Sustainability Professionals.

You have to really dig into the operations of most companies to find out if they are really sustainable. For example, do they still extract fossil fuels or use the byproducts? Do they profit from externalized costs with harmful global impact? There are many environmental and social justice (usually tied together) challenges in the world and some companies are working directly on fixing them rather than making more. Sustainability is needed in every industry, from health care to manufacturing.

I'm excited for you to use your skills and talents for long-term good. There are so many resources I could share with you, so please feel free to ask more specific questions or DM me.

Serah recommends the following next steps:

  • Check out idealist.org and https://www.sustainablebusiness.com/greendreamjobs/jobs/ for some ideas on current roles.
  • Visit 80,000 Hours to understand some of the major trends and needs in sustainability. Project Drawdown is my favorite source for "what should we be doing?" answers.
  • Find three companies on LinkedIn with a sustainability focus and see what type of jobs they have open. Here's one: https://www.linkedin.com/company/neste/life/95a27d35-619c-4a7d-8628-b6341ffca999/.
  • Look for professional associations that might have chapters or interest groups about sustainability and join the discussion: https://www.chemengonline.com/taking-stand-sustainability/.
Hi Serah, thank you so much for your response, I really appreciate it. Your advice has been very helpful. I would really like to talk to you more about sustainability and the various career options but I am not able to send a dm on this site. In your opinion is a post graduate degree required for a career in sustainability? I'm not sure as to what my next step should be. I have been told that sustainability field in South Africa has limited jobs and it's difficult to break into. But I am passionate about sustainability and the enviroment and I want to enter the industry.
Thank you so much for the links, they are very informative. Take care

Michael’s Answer

Updated Mine Hill Township, New Jersey

Congratulations you have graduated with one of the top undergraduate degrees that are available!!! There are chemicals engineers doing many varied things in multiple industries.

Start looking for entry level jobs for process engineering. Go on a few interviews ask questions. Take a job that sounds interesting.

Your fear of hard work and stress is understandable because you will encounter both in any job with serious responsibilities. If you want to avoid those in a job try McDonald’s. Of course you will then have the stress of putting a roof over you head and food on the table!!

You earned one of the most difficult undergrad degrees available. Go out and use it Invent something improve something just go and do it. Don’t be afraid to succeed!!