Career Guide

Chemical Engineer

Ben Maples  · Nov 18th 2022

Are you a science whiz who loves designing and creating new products?

Chemical Engineer working with liquid in beakers and with instruments

Studying chemical engineering opens you up to opportunities working as a chemical engineer, as well as in management or analytical roles. It’s one of the most in-demand graduate subjects across the UK, promising a successful future and a chance to make a real difference.

Chemical Engineer Career Guide

What is chemical engineering?

Chemical engineering is to do with the manufacturing and production of products through chemical processes. The course will teach you about mathematics, engineering, chemistry and physics, and how to work in various environments. You will take lessons in either classrooms or laboratories and real industry environments, providing you with a full scope of what your end career goal could be.

The degree can help develop your knowledge at a molecular level as well as real-world application, across many industries.

For your chemical engineering personal statement, you need to demonstrate interest and enthusiasm.

A chemical engineering degree can either be exclusively the subject or be combined with something else such as business management, chemistry or energy engineering.

What are the modules for this course?

The modules can vary based on which course you choose, whether a generic chemical engineering degree or a combined degree. In your first year, you will be taught introductory modules on the majority of topics and develop skills you can apply to your future career. In the second year, you will specialise in core chemical engineering topics and utilise practical modules. In the third year, you will deepen your understanding further.

Modules can include:

  • Bioprocess engineering
  • Cell biology
  • Chemical reaction engineering
  • Chemical engineering technology
  • Engineering design fundamentals
  • Environmental management
  • Fluid mechanics
  • Heat, mass and momentum
  • Industrial chemistry
  • Material sciences and engineering
  • Mass and energy balances
  • Separation processes
  • Petroleum engineering
  • Process engineering
  • Process modelling and thermodynamics

What are the entry requirements?

A chemical engineering degree is highly competitive and you can expect high entry requirements. Typically chemical engineering requirements range from 96-165 UCAS points.

This can include:

  • A-level: Entry requirements range from BCC to A*A*A*, with AAA as the most common expected grade. Maths, chemistry and/or physics are required.
  • BTECs: Some universities may accept a BTEC qualification as entry to the course. The requirements can range from D*D*D-MMM and a qualification example can include the Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma.
  • Scottish Highers: Requirements for a Highers range from BBBB to AAAAB, with AAABB as the most common. Some universities may ask for Advanced Highers in grades AA in addition to Highers.
  • International Baccalaureate (IB): For students taking the IB, the overall score entry requirement ranges from 42-26 points.

Additionally, extra reading and chemical engineering work experience are beneficial for your application. Resources for reading include The Chemical Engineer Journal or websites including the New Scientist.

Work experience is valuable to gain some hands-on industry insight. Whether it’s shadowing someone in a chemical engineering role or looking for an internship/work placement in a relevant organisation. Industry placements help establish a network, expand your knowledge and gain practical experience of skills. You can choose to work in the petrochemical, pharmaceutical, food or drink industries for the best type of work experience.

Chemical Engineer Career

How do I write my personal statement for this subject?

For your chemical engineering personal statement, you need to demonstrate interest and enthusiasm.

Choosing chemical engineering as a degree shows your commitment to an ambitious career, which needs to be demonstrated in this statement. Why did you choose the course? Did you have a passion for science growing up? Or are you interested in innovation and helping change the world? Explain your reasoning and personal insight behind the choice.

You will also need to show enthusiasm by talking about any additional reading and work experience you have acquired, relevant to your degree. Have you been reading scientific journals or magazines? Have you had the opportunity for industry experience? Talk about the things you have read, why you have found them interesting and what you have learnt. Discuss the same with industry experience.

Due to this, universities will be keen for you to show the characteristics of what makes a suitable engineer. Talk about your skills and talents such as in analysis, mathematics, experimentation and general curiosity and how they will match well to this degree.

It’s also worth considering how you write your statement. With such a competitive nature to this degree, you want to ensure your statement is error-free, reads well and is clear.

What books or equipment do I need?

Your university will provide a list of recommended books and further reading resources. Although reading additionally will help further your insight and knowledge and build on your interest in the subject. Some examples of insightful books include Perry’s Chemical Engineers’ Handbook, 9th Edition by Don Green and Marylee Southard and Transport Phenomena by Byron Bird, Warren Stewart, and Edwin Lightfoot. Another recommendation includes Chemical Reaction Engineering by Octave Levenspiel. Scientific journals are widely available and some examples include Chemical Engineering Science journal and Computers and Chemical Engineering journal.

Many graduates move into the chemical engineering route as well as other engineering roles.

Your university will also provide a list of the relevant equipment needed to complete this course such as anything you will require in the laboratory. A quality laptop is essential for assignments, writing notes, and relevant stationery.

How will I be assessed?

Assessment for a chemical engineering degree varies depending on the course and module. Typical assessment includes:

  • Coursework
  • Dissertation
  • Essays
  • Exams
  • Reports
  • Design and research projects
  • Presentations

What are the career prospects?

For many graduates, the next step is to move into a chemical engineering role. Although, as a sought-after degree, graduates are opened up to a range of industries including energy engineering, nuclear engineering and biotechnology.

There’s also the option of further study to move into the teaching of this subject.

Many potential employers will work in power generation and processing industries such as pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals, as well as manufacturing industries. Alternatively, other employers include contracting firms and engineering consultancy.

You can also work in environmental protection, waste recovery, medical science, health and safety.

Chemical Engineer

What jobs can I get with this degree?

Many graduates move into the chemical engineering route as well as other engineering roles. With a range of versatile skills, you can move into some of these jobs directly and others with further training and experience:

  • Biotechnologist
  • Chemical engineer
  • Colour technologist
  • Consultant engineer
  • Design engineer
  • Energy coordinator
  • Energy engineer
  • Environmental engineer
  • Geochemist
  • Glass or ceramics engineer
  • Manufacturing engineer
  • Nuclear engineer
  • Petroleum engineer
  • Product development scientist
  • Pharmaceutical engineer
  • Production manager
  • Project manager
  • Research and development engineer
  • Risk management
  • Senior process engineer
  • Waste management officer
  • Water engineer

Chemical engineering is to do with the manufacturing and production of products through chemical processes.

How does chemical engineering change at a postgraduate level?

Undergraduate degrees take three to four years, four with a year in industry, whilst a postgraduate degree is a year to two long. The postgraduate degree is a specialised course with a higher level of study than an undergraduate. You can specialise in a particular module area you learnt during your undergraduate degree. Some examples include Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology MSc/MPhil, Advanced Process Integration and Design MSc and Formulation Engineering EngD. With a chemical engineering undergraduate degree, you can also move into a postgraduate study area of science, design or management.

What is the average grad salary in this area?

The salary for a chemical engineer graduate can range depending on skill level, location and employer. Generally, the average graduate salary ranges between £26,000-£33,000[1]. For more experienced chemical engineers, your average salary can be around £38,000 - £50,000[2]. Chemical engineers' salaries can increase immensely, up to £150,000[3].


  • [1] Graduate Chemical Engineer Salaries in United Kingdom — Retrieved 18 November 2022.
  • [2] Chemical Engineer average salary in United Kingdom, 2022 — Retrieved 18 November 2022.
  • [3] Chemical Engineer Salary in the UK — Retrieved 18 November 2022.

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