What do chemical engineers do?

Chemical, process and biochemical engineers are involved in the design, modification and operation of processes to produce the things we rely on everyday - chocolate, petrol, cosmetics, electricity, cars, aspirin, the list is endless...

Due to the transferable skills chemical engineers learn at university, they're employed across a huge range of sectors including energy, healthcare, food, water and many more. For details of the major employers of chemical engineers listed by industry visit our employers page.

Chemical engineers often work in multi-disciplinary teams with mechanical, electrical and other types of engineer as projects benefit from different perspectives and areas of expertise. They need to make decisions concerning:

    • which reaction pathway should be used to make the product?
    • how to purify the desired product
    • how to control the process and ensure it's safe
    • how to make the process cost effective
    • what should be done with any by-products formed?
    • how to reduce the amounts of unwanted by-products 
    • what to do with unreacted raw materials
    • how to recycle energy within the process

For examples of the types of jobs available to chemical engineers, visit the job roles page.

More information

Case studies of real-life chemical engineers

Ten reasons to become a chemical engineer

Common misconceptions about chemical engineers

Ten differences between chemistry and chemical engineering