What Do Chemical Engineers Do? Are you looking for a challenging and innovative career path where you can have a tremendous impact on people’s lives by working with natural chemical processes to meet the needs of society?

Do you dream about developing new chemical processes that produce cutting-edge materials and products?

Would you like to run chemical production experiments in a laboratory and/or direct operations at industrial plants, refineries, and other locations?

The field of chemical engineering offers unique opportunities to make a real difference by applying the principles of chemistry, biology, physics, and math to solve problems that involve the production or use of chemicals, fuel, drugs, food, and many other products.

Chemical engineers

  • Design processes and equipment for large-scale manufacturing, planning, and testing production methods and byproducts treatment.
  • Rely on their knowledge of physics, mathematics, mechanical and electrical engineering, and science to overcome technical problems safely and economically.
  • Apply the principles of chemistry to solve problems and technical challenges involving the production or use of chemicals and other products.


  • Innovating chemical processes, such as oxidation or polymerization.
  • Performing research in specific fields, such as nanomaterials.
  • Developing specific products.

Famous Chemical Engineers

  • Keki Hormusji Gharda – prominent Indian chemical engineer and entrepreneur; Founder, Chairman, and Managing Director of Gharda Chemicals Limited, one of the frontrunners in the chemical industry in India and one of the largest agrochemicals manufacturing companies in the country
  • Alice Hamilton – directed the first governmental commission to investigate industrial hazards in the workplace, including exposure to dangerous chemicals; because of her work, laws were passed to protect employees from occupational hazards
  • Carolyn Bertozzi – contributed to the design of artificial bones that are less likely to cause reactions or lead to rejection; also helped create contact lenses that are better tolerated by the cornea of the eye
  • Fred C. Koch – American chemical engineer and entrepreneur who founded the oil refinery firm that later became Koch Industries, the second-largest privately held company in the United States
  • Lanny D. Schmidt – American chemist, inventor, author, and Regents Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at the University of Minnesota; well known for his extensive work in surface science, detailed chemistry, reaction engineering, catalysis, and renewable energy
  • John J. Mooney – American chemical engineer who was the co-inventor of the three-way catalytic converter, which has played a dramatic role in reducing pollution from motor vehicles since their introduction in the mid-1970s

Areas of Employment

  • Engineering services
  • Chemical manufacturing
  • Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences
  • Petroleum and coal products manufacturing
  • Resin, synthetic rubber, and artificial synthetic fibers and filaments manufacturing
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Healthcare
  • Design and construction
  • Petrochemicals
  • Food processing
  • Specialty chemicals
  • Polymers
  • Biotechnology
  • Environmental health and safety industries
  • A variety of manufacturing industries other than chemical manufacturing, such as those producing:
    • Energy
    • Electronics
    • Food
    • Clothing
    • Paper

Career Guidance Suggestions for Pre-University Students

Coursework to consider
  • Pre-algebra
  • Geometry
  • Advanced algebra
  • Engineering fundamentals
  • Molecular biology
  • Chemistry
  • Calculus
  • Trigonometry
  • Statistics
  • Physics
  • Robotics
  • Programming
  • Computer-aided design
  • Process control
  • Quantitative analysis
  • Thermodynamics
  • Fluid dynamics
  • Heat and mass transfer
  • Nanotechnology
Suggested extracurricular activities
  • Competitions
  • Summer programs
  • Afterschool programs
  • Clubs
  • Internships
  • Online puzzles and games
  • Online courses
  • Maker Faires
  • Design projects
Local programs offered by
  • Science centers and museums
  • Professional societies like IEEE
  • Universities
Important Skills
  • Analytical skills: must be able to troubleshoot designs that do not work as planned and be able to ask the right questions and then find answers that work.
  • Creativity: explore new ways of applying engineering principles and invent new materials, advanced manufacturing techniques, and new applications in chemical and biomedical engineering.
  • Interpersonal skills: develop good working relationships with others involved in production processes.
  • Math skills: use the principles of calculus and other advanced topics in mathematics for analysis, design, and troubleshooting.
  • Problem-solving skills: be able to anticipate and identify problems, including such issues as workers’ safety and problems related to manufacturing and environmental protection. 

Links and Resources