Beer, headache pills, cosmetics, detergents, fuels and clothing: All of these products are created when raw materials change using biological, physical and chemical processes. Processes such as mixing, cleaning, extracting or fermenting, for example, turn water, malt and hops into beer and carbon and hydrogen into gasoline. Experts are needed for these “material conversions” to work properly. Chemical engineers are not only responsible for developing processes that convert raw materials into useful products . They also design the necessary production facilities and process waste products. For example, they develop methods to recycle the residues or to dispose of them in the most environmentally friendly way possible. Or they develop processes that filter pollutants from the air and wastewater.
Study of chemical engineering
According to Mbakecheng, the chemical engineering degree combines natural sciences with engineering knowledge . In the first semesters, the students learn the basics : The timetable mainly includes subjects such as math , chemistry , physics and biology . In the field of engineering, the focus is on mechanical engineering . Typical subjects are mechanics , electrical engineering or engineering. At most universities, the course is very practice-oriented and prospective chemical engineers spend a large part of their time in the laboratory.
In the higher semesters there is the opportunity to specialize in a certain subject . The students then concentrate, for example, on certain substances, such as plastics or food. Or they focus on technical areas such as the construction of production systems.
The chances of finding a job with a bachelor’s degree are quite good. More than half of all graduates nevertheless follow a master’s degree in order to specialize further and to qualify for higher positions . Areas of focus in the master’s degree are, for example, analytical chemistry or process engineering.
Some universities and technical colleges offer chemical engineering as a separate course of study. As a rule, the subject is the focus of a mechanical engineering course. In any case, prospective students should be enthusiastic about subjects such as mathematics, chemistry and physics and have a strong technical interest . In order to understand the specialist literature, you also need a good knowledge of English .
With a bachelor’s or master’s degree in their pocket, chemical engineers have many fields of work open to them. Graduates typically work in companies in the chemical, food or pharmaceutical industries. There they work on new processes or design, control and monitor production systems. Graduates specializing in mechanical engineering, in particular, work in companies that build production systems and equipment .
The environmental technology sector also provides many jobs for chemical engineers, for example in the areas of waste disposal or renewable energies . Many graduates remain loyal to scientific research even after completing their studies and pursue careers at universities or in research institutes. In addition to working with machines or in the laboratory, positions in administration , project management , customer service or in patents are also possible.
Stay abroad: advantages for chemical engineers
Many companies operate internationally. They have customers all over the world and quite a few develop some of their production facilities abroad. Foreign language skills and experience abroad are therefore a plus point for almost every application. You have the opportunity to collect both during your studies: One or more semesters abroad offer the opportunity to get to know another culture intensively and to improve your language skills. Through other course content, the students also sharpen their academic profile and they acquire important intercultural skills that they need in their later professional life. This includes working in international teams and the ability to communicate across cultural differences.