What do chemical engineers do?

Applying basic science to industrial and societal challenges

Chemical Engineers address global grand challenges such as feeding the World, vaccinating the World and achieving Net Zero. Put simply, they turn raw materials into valuable products that change lives.

They sit at the interface of the basic sciences (chemistry, physics, biology) and engineering practice. At the fundamental level, their work spans material science, fluid dynamics, separation processes, catalysis, biomedical science, atomic modelling and many more. Meanwhile at the applied level chemical engineers are crucial to pharmaceutical production (lab scale, scaling up, global production), food production, energy and consumer products among many other fields.

From a broad base of fundamental science to specific expertise

Chemical engineers typically have a firm ground in mathematics and the fundamental physical sciences: mathematical analysis and methods, Newtonian mechanics, organic and inorganic chemistry, thermodynamics and some aspects of computer science, among many other skill sets. On top of this they will be experts in a more specific field, for instance biotechnology, rheology, reactor design, catalysis or one of hundreds of other chemical engineering specialisms.

Your career as a Chemical Engineer

The current state of affairs presents growing and varied opportunities for Chemical Engineers to change the World. From those who wish to use their chemical engineering knowledge directly in scaling up the production of vaccines and other medical products, those who wish to find and optimise new sources of renewable energy, or those who wish to desalinate sea water to provide drinking water for millions. Meanwhile chemical engineers find exciting and challenging roles in food and drink production, the energy industry, electronics manufacture, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, personal products and many other areas.

Furthermore, the breadth and depth of training required to become a practising chemical engineer, with its emphasis on numerate problem-solving and communication skills, is an excellent basis for other careers, for example in informatics, finance, accountancy, marketing or general management.Chemical Engineers are exceptionally well placed to find rewarding and lucrative careers. Many others choose to further their studies by proceeding to postgraduate level studying on PhD and MSc courses.


In the UK, the Institution of Chemical Engineers is the leading professional qualifying body for chemical, biochemical and process engineers. There are many other global professional chemical engineering institutions including the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and the European Federation of Chemical Engineering.

Students in Edinburgh
Students in Edinburgh
Chemical engineering employment word cloud
Chemical engineering employment word cloud