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What type of work do chemical engineers do at different companies?

After identifying my goals and narrowing down some choices chemical engineering seems like a career of a great fit.

I will be attending Georgia Tech this fall and am now thinking of creating career goals. This made me think about what is the day like for chemical engineers that work at well-known companies like Apple, Colgate, Microsoft, Lush...

#chemical-engineering #engineering #engineer #career

Thank you comment icon Thank you so much to everyone for responding in such an in-depth way. I look forward to reading all the responses and learning more about my future career. Violeta

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Katie’s Answer

Hi Violeta,

Congrats on getting into Georgia Tech! I graduated almost 20 years with a BS in Chemical Engineering. While I was at school, I learned about the role Chemical Engineers play at various companies by attending AIChE and Society of Women Engineers meetings and co-oping for a flexible packaging company.

My first role after graduating was in Continuous Improvement as a member of the Quality and Food Safety Team at a large international food company. Because my role was based at a manufacturing site, I started my day at work by changing into a uniform and steel toe shoes. I attended the daily production meeting each morning to review product made in the last 24 hours and learn about the plans for the next 24 hours of production. The rest of my day was spent interacting with equipment operators, reviewing data for my projects, and attending various meetings. I was expected to wear a bump cap, ear plugs, and safety glasses any time I entered the production area.

While I have spent the majority of my career working in Quality and Food Safety, I have had roles in product development, laboratory management, and manufacturing site management. My current role is managing Quality Assurance Teams at eleven manufacturing sites across the United States and Canada. I no longer wear a uniform; I still attend daily production meetings. In addition to reviewing data and attending various meetings, I also spend a large portion of my time focused on people management.

Enjoy your time at Tech!


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Anh’s Answer

Hi Violeta,

Congrats on your admission to GA Teach, it is definitely a great school for Chemical Engineering!

I am a rising senior in Chemical Engineering at UIUC and is interning at a biopharmaceutical company. Since most of the other answers are from professionals, I thought I'd give you a glance at how the college experience would help make your career decisions. At UIUC, I was able to learn about the different career paths of a ChE major in freshman year, which I'm sure you will too, but it was still difficult for me to imagine what they specifically look like as a freshman. However, by utilizing all the resources available (whether it be career fairs, career services office, student organizations like AIChE, SWE, EC (American Institute of Chemical Engineers, Society of Women in Engineering, Engineering Council), etc.), I was able to connect with and talk to industry professionals and learn about their career paths as well as the industry they work in. As a ChE, there are many industries that you can go in to, which are already listed in others' answers. You'll also have the opportunity to do research, intern, and take different courses to find something that suits you best.

Enjoy the rest of your summer and best of luck!
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Brayden’s Answer

Hello!

Chemical engineers jobs range from designing safety measures to ensure that a chemical spill can occur to testing to see what happens when you combine to materials together. In many ways CHE are used a safety advisors ensuring that any facility that houses chemicals remains safe and that they are processing chemicals properly. Especially in todays markets where such a large amount of chemicals are being combined in order to make other products, if the base chemicals were to get out they could have detrimental affects to the environment so its up to the chemical engineer to prevent those accidents/ spills from ever occurring.

Hopefully this helps! Good luck!
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Ram’s Answer

Employers cover a range of industrial sectors. Any company involved in large-scale conversion of raw materials into a product will require chemical engineers.

You'll find major employers in gas and oil extraction, oil refining, nuclear and other power generation and process industries, including pharmaceuticals, fine and heavy chemicals, and agrochemicals. Other manufacturing industries that need chemical engineers include those supplying:

fibres and polymers
food and drink
plastic and metals
pulp and paper
toiletries.
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Ryan’s Answer

I spent a decade working at an engineering consulting company with a degree in Chemical Engineering as a process engineer. Most of my work had to do with treatment of water or gas, which could was primarily in the municipal, oil and gas, and mining sectors. This role leaned heavily on my understanding of fluid mechanics, but most of what I learned was on the job. Typical tasks included developing piping and instrumentation diagrams (P&IDs), sizing of instrumentation, sizing of process lines, and equipment sizing.
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Sarah’s Answer

I am an electrical engineer at a medical device company. One of my colleagues is a Chemical Engineer who helps us ensure the chemicals we use in all our surgical devices are safe, effective, and meet worldwide regulations. She has also set up processes for us to be smarter about chemical and material selection so we can design products right the first time.
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Mario’s Answer

Hey Violeta!

Congrats on getting accepted for a BS in Chemical Engineering. I just graduated from the University of Houston as a chemical engineer and currently work for Chevron Phillips Chemicals. I have worked as a Process Engineer and a Process Controls Engineer.

As a Process Engineer, I had a "bird eye" view on the entire process or sections of the process to look for potential optimization or help with troubleshooting efforts when something got wrong. Had a lot of work that focused on safety and environmental projects. This job role also was very technical as well. Involved heat transfer, chemical reactions, fluid dynamics, etc.

Process Controls is more focused on the automation side of a chemical manufacturing site. It involves a bit of programing, optimization, and process control design efforts for new projects getting implemented into a plant.

Hope this helps!
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Robert’s Answer

Chemical engineering (ChE) is focused on applying known and discovered phenomena in the design, construction of, and operation of mass-production industrial plants: large scale being the key, especially at big companies like those you mention. In most cases, a chemical engineer sees a production line through from start to finish: they design the production plant, oversee the acquisition, installation, assembly, and integration of the equipment, and then run the line (oversee its operation and maintenance) for as long as it remains relevant. ChE pays extremely well and it is easy to get a job in, but you are on call at all hours once the line launches because you are the expert on the big picture, and get called when it isn't working right and nobody else can figure out why in the wee hours of the night. (Some ChE specialize in just design, build, or operate, though.)

Chemical engineering can be something of a "gotcha" field, because how it is named is not consistent with other engineering fields. Most people assume that chemical engineers design and develop chemicals, the way electrical engineers do electronics and structural engineers do structures (but it's actually chemists who do that). Chemical engineers work on mass-production systems and scale-up. They design, develop, and operate large plants and highly integrated systems. It is the most interdisciplinary engineering field of all (save perhaps industrial engineering, which I don't think is really engineering at all: it's management!): the first two years of the ChE degree program are like a liberal arts in the sciences and engineering, but then in the latter half you learn how to size pumps, cooling towers, and reactors. It is very mathematical. The largest single sector in which chemical engineers work is the petroleum industry: refining petroleum, cracking hydrocarbons, and making polymers and pharmaceuticals, but some of my friends work in almost every industry that mass-produces its products, from computer chips and cars to soda pop and potato chips. One of my friends makes Depends undergarments, another makes Velveeta.

Robert recommends the following next steps:

If there's any way you can shadow or get an informational interview with a ChE, jump at it! It is hard to do because they are generally very busy. But frankly, big companies are always looking for female ChE (there are very few), so you might have a better chance than most. Try contacting the AIChE (American Institue of Chemical Engineers) or WIC (Women in Chemical Engineering) or WIC (Women in Chemical Engineering) at GA Tech.
Also look into and/or contact Women in Chemical Engineering (WIC)!
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