Chemical engineers are experts in applying the fundamental theories of chemistry, biology, and physics to help form effective solutions for problems in the production of chemicals, medications, fuels, foods, and many other daily human products.
Chemical engineers are often responsible for designing safety procedures for working with chemicals, developing processes for large-scale manufacturing, troubleshooting problems in manufacturing products, evaluating equipment for compliance to safety regulations, estimating production costs to present to managers, and supervising performance throughout production.
How much does a chemical engineer make? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 32,190 chemical engineers employed from coast to coast in the United States earn an average yearly chemical engineer salary of $102,270, which is equivalent to $49.17 per hour.
Although the bottom 10% in the field earns a mean $58,830, the top ten percent of chemical engineers make a sizeable average salary of $154,840 each year. Chemical engineers employed in basic chemical manufacturing earn slightly more than average at $106,140, but those that work in the natural gas distribution industry bring home considerably more with an average $152,930 annually. The top-paying states for the occupation are Virginia and Alaska, where chemical engineers make $134,610 and $126,250 respectively.
The majority of chemical engineers, around 16 percent, are employed within the architectural, engineering, and related services industry. Others have found employment in scientific research development services, basic chemical manufacturing, artificial synthetic or filaments manufacturing, and pharmaceutical or medicine manufacturing. Nearly all chemical engineers are employed on a full-time basis within an office or laboratory setting, but some travel extensively from worksites throughout the nation and abroad. Chemical engineers often spend long hours at industrial plants and refineries, where they are more efficiently able to monitor operations and solve on-site concerns.
Since chemical engineers work in industries that are sought by many manufacturing firms, employment is directly linked to the current state of overall manufacturing in America. Therefore, employment for chemical engineers is expected to grow much slower than the average of all other occupations by just 6 percent, which will create only 1,800 new jobs before 2020. However, chemical engineers who migrate into newer fields in nanotechnology and biotechnology will likely have the most promising job prospects.