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What is Chemical Engineering Really?

By Marla

In theory what is it?

In theory, Chem Es (as we are affectionately known) deal with manipulating the chemistries that chemists come up with to a much larger scale. Example - a chemsit figures out how to make plastic in a beaker at his work bench, a chemical engineer figures out how to make 100billion tons of it cheaply a year!

What is it used for?

Traditionally oil refinaries used us to figure out the best ways to seperate crude oils but now we do a lot of process engineering in many other industries like semiconductors, engineering consulting, anything that makes stuff on a large scale. We figure out how to make things on a large economy of scale.

What does the major actually entail - work-wise?

Well depends on the industry. In oil, probably going out on some big oil rigs in the ocean for 7 days at a time to make sure things are running smoothly. But in general any process engineering job you end up in a lab doing reasearch and development on different processes.

What kind of jobs do you get with it?

Process Engineer is most common. But from my class (~80) a lot went into research and development, financial consulting, eBanking, and of course back to school!

What are the fellow students like (personalitywise) in it?

Most are very bright and very fun but it depends on where you go to school more than the major.

Common Misconceptions

That there is nothing out there for Chem Es. With a bad economy, it is tough but normally you can get a job with an oil company (bare minimum) really quickly out of college.

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Schools that offer Bachelors for chemical engineering


Chemical Engineering Major unemployment rate

_Chemical EngineeringAll Majors
Minimum Wage%1%4
All Others%93%87
More: Unemployment for all Majors *** not counting stay at home parents *** not counting those currently in grad school

Are things going well in Chemical Engineering?

Going Well%76
Not Going Well%24
More: All Majors Satisfaction ??? This is a social "life satisfaction" question. Overall, would people who graduated with a degree in Chemical Engineering say that their life is going well? It could be interpreted in terms of stress, salary, long hours, future prospects, etc. *** not counting those currently in grad school

Graduates who stayed in Chemical Engineering

Still in Field%64
Got out%36
More: All Majors Still in field ??? A high "got out" percentage can be interpreted a couple of ways -- for instance, perhaps the major is a great stepping stone to becoming a totally different career -- like a doctor. Or perhaps the jobs one gets with the major just aren't that great. *** not counting those currently in grad school
I really enjoyed my time at Vanderbilt.I really enjoyed my time at Vanderbilt. I was a Chemical Engineer who worked incredibly hard in my major. After graduating I went to work for a highly competitive and highly paying field engineering job.Read reviewChemical EngineeringVanderbilt University Reviews
UC has changed a lot since I wentUC has changed a lot since I went there from 1997-2003. I went back last weekend, and while there is still a lot of construction yet to be completed, campus looks completely different. The newRead reviewChemical EngineeringThe University of Cincinnati Reviews
The engineering programs concentrate on theory insteadThe engineering programs concentrate on theory instead of application of knowlege in the real world. UCSD graduates are therefore less prepared to enter the workforce and may have trouble landing a job upon graduation.Read reviewChemical EngineeringThe University of California San Diego Reviews
College has helped my career a ton.College has helped my career a ton. If it wasn’t for the University of Pittsburgh I might not be working for one of the largest chemical companies right now. Thanks to the jobfairs on campusRead reviewChemical EngineeringThe University of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh Campus Reviews
Blast kills 23 outside China factory in Olympic cityBy Yahoo News - Latest News & HeadlinesA truck carrying combustible chemicals exploded at the entrance of a chemical factory in a northern Chinese city that will host the 2022 Winter Olympics Wednesday, leaving 23 people deadread→
Student, creator of KnoNap wins grant to develop date rape prevention productsBy The GW HatchetA junior was awarded $50,000 through a summit hosted by Toyota for her company, which is working to develop products that can detect date rape drugs. Danya Sherman – founderGeorge Washington University Reviewsread→
Cooper is all it is cracked upCooper is all it is cracked up to be, as long as the people you interview with know the school. If they don't know the school then you might as well tell them you wentRead reviewChemical EngineeringCooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art Reviews