Chemical engineers apply their knowledge of chemistry to solving problems involving chemicals and their processes. They design equipment or procedures for manufacturing chemicals and manage production. A bachelor's degree is the minimum educational requirement, although research positions sometimes require a graduate degree. States also require licenses for those engineers who offer services directly to the public.
The median salary of chemical engineers is £57,382 yearly, as of May 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The bottom 10 and 25 per cent make £36,458 and £45,727, while the upper 10 and 25 per cent receive £8,643 and £70,505.
The highest-paying industries for chemical engineers are: oil and gas extraction, with salaries at £75,120; management, scientific and technical consulting services, at £66,898; and motor vehicle parts manufacturing, at £63,758. Unfortunately, these do not offer the most job opportunities. The industries that pay less include: architectural, engineering and related services, with salaries at £60,450; basic chemical manufacturing, at £59,410; and scientific research and development, at £63,609.
The states where chemical engineers earn the most include Alaska, with pay at £81,783, Delaware at £75,582, and Idaho at £73,196. Delaware also boasts the greatest concentration of engineers, followed by Louisiana, where pay is at £63,401, and Texas at £64,395.
The cities where employers pay the most money are: San Antonio, Texas, with wages at £80,294; San Jose, California, at £78,793; and Wilmington, Delaware, at £76,485. However, none of them shows the most numbers of chemical engineering jobs per capita. The cities with that distinction are Victoria, Texas, with wages at £57,271, Kennewick, Washington, at £67,093 and Beaumont, Texas, at £67,437.
The BLS predicts a decline of 2 per cent in chemical engineering positions from 2008 to 2018, which is worse than average. This translates to a change from 31,700 jobs to 31,000 jobs by 2018. Prospects for salary growth are equally as bad. Although chemical companies will continue to hire engineers for research and development, most of the growth will come from service-provider industries, for research in biotechnology, energy and nanotechnology.