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I’m undecided whether I should choose chemical or environmental engineering. I want to know which will be worth it?

My strong subject is science, a little bit bad at math but I know I can learn. I don’t want to stay in a single working environment, I want to be able to travel and move around. I also would appreciate a reality check on both of these engineering fields, are these any good when put into the engineering field. Are they worth it at the end both financially and mentally ?

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Shayla’s Answer

You can try to make a list of things you like and don't like about each course; weigh the pros and cons of making the decision and decide if that course is truly what you want and if it's what's best for you
Thank you comment icon Thank you, Shayla! Aracely
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Amina’s Answer

Deciding between chemical and environmental engineering can be challenging, as both fields offer unique opportunities and benefits. Here are some factors to consider, which may help you determine which path might be more "worth it" for your specific goals and interests:

Chemical Engineering

**1. **Broad Range of Industries:**
Chemical engineers work in a variety of industries, including pharmaceuticals, energy, food and beverages, cosmetics, and materials science. This versatility can provide numerous career options and pathways.

**2. **High Earning Potential:**
Chemical engineering tends to have a higher average salary compared to many other engineering disciplines. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for chemical engineers in the United States was around $108,540 as of 2021.

**3. **Focus on Processes and Materials:**
Chemical engineering is deeply rooted in chemistry, physics, and mathematics, focusing on designing processes to produce, transform, and transport materials. If you have a strong interest in these areas, this field could be very rewarding.

**4. **Innovation and Research:**
Chemical engineers are often at the forefront of developing new materials and processes. If you are interested in innovation, research, and development, this field offers many opportunities to work on cutting-edge technologies.

Environmental Engineering

**1. **Positive Environmental Impact:**
Environmental engineering focuses on solving environmental problems and improving sustainability. If you are passionate about making a positive impact on the environment, this field offers direct opportunities to work on issues like pollution control, waste management, and renewable energy.

**2. **Growing Field:**
As environmental concerns become more prominent globally, the demand for environmental engineers is expected to grow. This field is essential for developing solutions to climate change, water scarcity, and pollution, leading to a potentially stable and growing job market.

**3. **Interdisciplinary Nature:**
Environmental engineering often involves a mix of civil, chemical, and biological engineering principles. This interdisciplinary approach can be exciting and fulfilling if you enjoy working on diverse and complex problems.

**4. **Regulatory and Compliance Work:**
Environmental engineers often work with regulations and compliance, ensuring that industries and municipalities meet environmental standards. This can be a good fit if you are interested in policy and regulatory aspects of engineering.

Factors to Consider

**1. **Your Interests:**
Reflect on what subjects and areas you are most passionate about. Do you enjoy chemistry and process design, or are you more interested in sustainability and environmental protection?

**2. **Career Goals:**
Consider your long-term career goals. Do you see yourself working in a lab or industrial setting, or do you want to focus on solving environmental issues and working in the field?

**3. **Job Market:**
Research the job market and demand for both fields in the regions where you want to work. While both fields have good prospects, the demand can vary depending on location and industry trends.

**4. **Educational Programs:**
Look into the specific programs offered by universities you are interested in. Some programs may have stronger focuses on certain aspects of the field, better research opportunities, or industry connections.

Making the Decision

To make a more informed decision, consider doing the following:

**1. **Talk to Professionals:**
Reach out to professionals in both fields to get insights into their day-to-day work, challenges, and career paths.

**2. **Internships:**
If possible, try to gain internship experience in both fields. This hands-on experience can provide a clearer picture of what each career entails.

**3. **Coursework:**
Review the coursework for both majors and see which classes excite you more.

**4. **Advisors and Mentors:**
Speak with academic advisors and mentors who can provide guidance based on your strengths and interests.

Ultimately, both chemical and environmental engineering are valuable and rewarding fields. The best choice for you will depend on your personal interests, career goals, and the impact you wish to make in your professional life.
Thank you comment icon Thank you for giving me advice. Aracely
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Karen’s Answer

Hi,
It seems like you've already decided to be an engineer, as to which kind you can pick which one interest you more. Both of them are not easy majors and will take lots of effort and energy, so unless you are inspired to work on them, it could feel otherwise hard majors to work on. I hope you notice how you feel when you take those classes and find the one you interest more!
Thank you comment icon Thanks for the advice. Aracely
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Abiola’s Answer

Listen to your mind,conscience and ability
Thank you comment icon I appreciate this, thank you for the advice. Aracely
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Bill’s Answer

You should be able to find a good job with either degree. Both of them would very likely be worth it financially as they will likely lead to high paying jobs. With any engineering degree you will have to deal with a lot of math, so just be prepared for that and make sure that it is something you want/are willing to do.

Since you mentioned that you want the opportunity to have a flexible work atmosphere and the opportunity to move around, I would encourage you to lean towards chemical engineering. While both fields will provide solid jobs, there tends to be more opportunities for chemical engineers than for environmental engineers. Environmental engineering is a very focused field. As a chemical engineer you can usually get involved in environmental engineering if that is the direction that you want your career to go, but it doesn't force you into that field. You still have a lot of options, such as working in chemical plants, process engineering, engineering sales, etc. In other words, a chemical engineer can do most of the environmental roles, but an environmental engineer can't do most of the ChE roles. That said, if you know that environmental work is where you want to spend your career, environmental engineering will open up plenty of opportunities for you.

Neither degree will come easy and will require a lot of hard work on your part, but if you are will to put in the effort you can have a very rewarding career.
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much, Bill! Aracely
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Jj’s Answer

You can chemical engineering because it has wide scope and you can enter wide variety of industries and you can get high pay easily
Thank you comment icon Thank you, this is really helpful. Aracely
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Mandar’s Answer

Considering your aspiration to travel and move around as part of your professional career, you can choose Chemical engineering as your academic option. Chemical engineers works in diverse industries such as Pharmaceuticals, energy, food and clean energy. Chemical engineering field is also at the forefront of technological advancements, offering opportunities to work on cutting edge innovations. This field also offers competitive compensation and strong job stability across Industry and IT sector.
Thank you comment icon Mandar, thank you! Aracely
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Anna’s Answer

If you are willing to work hard, both of these would be great careers. I have a degree in Chemical Engineering, but currently work as a Chemist by title. I do get to travel a lot in my current role. A lot of Chemical Engineers end up in careers that don't exactly match their curriculum, but the degree shows you know how to work hard and think critically.
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much for the advice. Aracely
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Mack’s Answer

Hello Aracely,

Either field would be a good choice -- engineering in its broadest sense is problem-solving! Chemical Engineering is likely to involve a bit more math and Environmental Engineering is likely to involve a bit more science. Chemical Engineering has been one of the top three engineering degrees in pay and demand for many decades. Environmental Engineering has become more important in the last couple of decades but still may not be as much in demand as Chemical Engineering.

You might also consider where you want to be "moving around" to. If you have locations in mind, check out the industries or problems that need to be solved in those locations -- you might find that one degree is a better choice.

Good luck with your decision.
Thank you comment icon Thank you, this is really helpful. Aracely
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Semala’s Answer

Hello Aracely,

This depends on how excited you are about these two career choices. Personally, I would choose the chemical engineering career and then combine the environmental engineering. Out in the field, there will be opportunities that will call for the expertise of both. However, the benefits from having the skills of both engineering careers would be that you will not limit yourself, and when there are no opportunities available, you will have the expertise and skills to create opportunities for yourself.
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much! Aracely
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Patrick’s Answer

Aracely, it's important to align your interests, strengths, and future ambitions when deciding on a career in engineering. Both chemical and environmental engineering are rewarding fields, but they differ in their focus and potential career paths.

Chemical engineering is a multifaceted field that blends principles from chemistry, physics, math, and engineering to design and manage processes that transform materials or energy. It's particularly relevant in sectors like petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, food processing, and energy production. As a chemical engineer, you could find yourself working in research and development, process design, plant operations, or environmental compliance. If you have a solid science background and are willing to enhance your math skills, chemical engineering could be a great fit. This field offers diverse work settings, including manufacturing plants, labs, and consulting firms.

Conversely, environmental engineering is all about preserving and enhancing the natural environment. It addresses issues such as air and water pollution, waste management, and sustainability. Drawing on principles from chemistry, biology, and civil engineering, environmental engineers work on water treatment, air pollution control, waste remediation, and environmental impact assessments. If you're passionate about environmental conservation and want to contribute to sustainable solutions, environmental engineering could be a fulfilling choice.

In terms of travel, both fields offer plenty of opportunities. Chemical engineers might work on projects in various plant locations or consult for international corporations. Environmental engineers often work with government agencies, consulting firms, or non-profits, which could involve fieldwork and travel to different project sites.

Financially, both chemical and environmental engineering offer competitive compensation. Chemical engineers, especially those in the energy or pharmaceutical sectors, often have higher earning potential. However, environmental engineering salaries are also competitive, and the demand for professionals in this field is likely to increase as environmental regulations and sustainability initiatives become more rigorous.

Both fields are intellectually challenging but also immensely rewarding. Chemical engineers need a strong understanding of complex processes, problem-solving skills, and the ability to work under pressure. Environmental engineers face the intellectual challenge of developing innovative solutions to environmental problems while considering economic, social, and regulatory factors.

Aracely, your choice between chemical and environmental engineering should be based on your personal interests, values, and career goals. It's wise to gain hands-on experience through internships or co-op programs to better understand the daily responsibilities and work environments in each field. Also, talking to professionals in both fields can offer valuable insights and help you make an informed decision that aligns with your goals and priorities.
Thank you comment icon This was super helpful, thank you! Aracely
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Mmasi’s Answer

Hi Aracely,
It all depends on your interest, excitement for each major and what type of work you see yourself doing in the near future. Both fields are very good. Chemical engineering is of higher demand/more pay and does have a wider range of industries to choose from e.g. pharmaceuticals, energy, food & beverages and manufacturing.
Environmental engineering is still a growing field, and you get to contribute to some of the world's most pressing environmental concerns.

You just have to decide on which one you are more interested in and align with your values and the kind of challenges you want to tackle at work. Try getting an internship in both fields to see which one sparks your interest.
Thank you comment icon Thank you, this is amazing! I really needed it. Aracely
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Tasha’s Answer

Hi, Aracely,

Another vote for chemical engineering here. Environmental engineering is important, but the reality is that chemical engineers can do most environmental engineering jobs while the reverse is not true. As such, chemical engineering will offer you more options, career-wise. I am biased, because I have a chemical engineering degree, but chemical engineers work in a lot of roles.

Some of the more traditional chemical engineering roles are in the oil & gas industry, water treatment, manufacturing (consumer packaged goods, food, breweries), and the semiconductor industry.

You will also find a lot of chemical engineers working in IP law (after an undergrad degree in chemical engineering followed by law school) and as CEOs of major multinational corporations (e.g., Indra Nooyi, who was the CEO of PepsiCo until 2018).

Additionally, many chemical engineers end up working in the biomedical field, which is growing and likely has an exciting future.

Personally, I am grateful for my chemical engineering degrees but don't work in ANY of the above fields. The critical thinking and strong STEM base has allowed me to pursue a number of roles in the last 25 years, and today I work in software (which has nothing to do with chemical engineering). Good luck!
Thank you comment icon Thank you, this is really helpful. Aracely
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