In this age of Information Technology, Chemical Engineering might seem to have been relegated to the sidelines, but that does not mean it has lost its appeal in the industry. Freshly graduated Chemical Engineers can look at job prospects in several sectors and industries. Apart from being part of traditional chemicals-centric industries such as petroleum industry and the pharmaceuticals sectors, chemical engineering is also fast becoming part of new and upcoming fields such as biotechnology, information technology, food technology and pollution control technology.
Thus, for any student taking up Chemical Engineering, employment is not a worry. Chemical engineers are required in various industries—be it textiles, plastics, food, automotive, aerospace, petroleum, oil and gas, and pharmaceuticals, or the newer ones such as biomedical and biotechnology. Their contribution to industrial processes of the making of fibres, paints, fabrics, medical drugs, biomaterials, gasoline, lubricants among others are necessary for the proper functioning of the sector. Newer fields of specialty chemicals, environmental control, biotechnology and waste management also employ chemical engineers as part of their operations processes.
These are some of the jobs that a chemical engineer can look at:
Chemical Technicians conduct experiments using laboratory equipment to research, develop, and test chemical products and processes. Entry-level chemical technicians set up and maintain laboratory instruments and equipment, monitor chemical processes and test the quality of products to make sure that they meet standards and specifications. They analyse compounds to test the concentration of different substances and observing chemical processes for safety and analysis. They also ensure that hazardous materials are removed once the experiments are over.
Senior Chemical Technicians carry out tests on different solutions, compounds, or products to analyse them for a variety of purposes, including research and development. They produce technical guidance and reports on their findings, both for their immediate team and superiors, and other departments as well.
Analytical Chemists assess the chemical structure and nature of substances. Entry-level analytical chemists analyse samples from various sources to provide information on compounds or quantities of compounds present. They use analytical techniques and instrumentation, such as gas and High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPCL), ion chromatography, electrochromatography, and spectroscopy. They interpret data and meet strict guidelines on documentation when recording data. They also develop techniques for the analysis of drug products and chemicals.
Senior Analytical Chemists are responsible for preparing documentation for product license applications and setting specifications for finished products. They perform routine and experimental analytical method and protocols in an accurate and reproducible manner. They prepare and present technical documents to customers and direct the work of junior staff assigned to them.
Process Engineers use principles of chemistry to design and maintain chemical processes for manufacturers. They choose or develop the materials and the manufacturing methods that will turn these materials into the desired end product—which can range from chemicals, fuel, plastics, food and drinks, clean water, to bath and hygiene products. As part of their job, they develop and manage capital projects, equipment installations, process improvement projects, and support the system for this manufacturing process. Entry-level process engineers assess processes, take measurements and interpret data; purchase and install equipment; develop process simulation software to work out the best production methods. Senior process engineers mainly supervise plant operations. They investigate and troubleshoot plant/process problems and ensure that all equipment work to their specification and to appropriate capacities. They also assess safety and environmental issues and ensure safe working conditions and compliance with health and safety legislation.
Plant Manager oversee all daily operations of the plant, from production and manufacturing to ensuring policies and procedures are followed. Entry-level plant managers are responsible for production output, product quality and on-time shipping. They allocate resources effectively and fully utilise assets to produce optimal results. They ensure compliance to all schedule for machines and facilities and assist in installation of all equipments. They also negotiate between various labour relations and perform regular appraisals for personnel and recommend changes in responsibilities and salary as per requirement.
Senior Plant Managers coordinate plant activities through the planning with departmental managers to insure the total manufacturing objectives are accomplished in a timely and cost effective manner. They establish and monitor overall plant performance for production and quality standards. They control and minimise labour overtime, premium freight and repair expenses. They provide leadership and training to accomplish the company goals and objectives. They also implement cost effective systems of control over capital, operating expenditures, manpower, wages, and salaries.
Validation Engineer: Validation engineers manage, inspect, calibrate, test and modify the instrumentation, equipment, mechanics and procedures used to manufacture various products. Entry-level validation engineers ensure all systems are running according to necessary specifications and operate within regulations to ensure the production of quality products. They monitor all automation process and prepare specifications for all equipments. They prepare compliance reports; direct validation activities; create database to track validation activities; etc.Senior validation engineers establish validation standards, develop testing protocols, and maintain test records for later analysis. They design and implement various validation assessment procedures; oversee the inventory of validation supplies; ensure compliance with industry standards and regulatory guidelines; develop validation schedules; conduct training and oversee the work of junior validation engineers; interpret customer requirements; etc.