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Overview - Preparation - Day in the Life - Earnings - Employment - Industries - Professional Development - Career Path Forecast - Professional Organizations

A bachelor's degree in engineering is required for almost all entry-level chemical engineering jobs. Preparation for a career in chemical engineering begins as an undergraduate, but is not limited to course work. Employers value a range of capabilities which you can develop as you acquire technical competence in the classroom. You may also want to explore the possibility of a transfer program or a graduate degree.

Undergraduate Courses
The core curriculum of a chemical engineering program serves a dual purpose: it provides technical information and instills a thought process unique to the engineering discipline. This sample curriculum is based on the required courses for chemical engineering students in an accredited university program, and is from the Academic Advising Guide to Chemical Engineering at Virginia Tech. This can be a guide for what to expect in your curriculum, but you should always select classes in consultation with a faculty advisor.

First Year: General Chemistry (with lab); Calculus I and II; Introduction to Engineering; English; Algebra; Statistics; Vector Geometry; Electives

Second Year: Organic Chemistry; Multivariable Calculus; Mass and Energy Balances; Physics; Statistics; Ordinary Partial Differential Equations; Physical Chemistry; Separation Processes; Mechanics of Deformable Bodies; Elective

Third Year: Transport Operations; Thermodynamics; Process, Measurements and Controls; Physical Chemistry (with lab); Chemical Process Modeling; Chemical Reactor Analysis and Design; Elective Summer: Chemical Engineering Lab

Fourth Year: Process and Plant Design; Separation Processes; Process Materials; Elective

Accredited Programs
Those interested in a career in Chemical Engineering should consider reviewing engineering programs that are accredited by ABET.

Employers usually look to hire candidates who have demonstrated success both within their core program and in a diverse range of elective courses. Within a chemical engineering program, students are generally required to take 31 credits (approximately 13 courses) of electives. Focus on becoming as well-rounded as possible by taking a variety of humanities courses, and try to include communication and business courses whenever possible. The following are skills and competencies you will need in a career; linked with possible courses you could take to acquire them.

Computer Literacy
Computers are used every day for communications, simulations, budgeting, monitoring controls, and word processing.
Courses to Consider: Computer Programming, Computer Science

Bilingual Ability
The marketplace is increasingly global, with a need for people who are fluent in more than one language.
Courses to Consider: Foreign Languages, Study Abroad

Communication Skills
Engineering involves working with others and communicating so that others understand and support your ideas.
Courses to Consider: Speech, Writing, English, Debate, Journalism, Acting, Film, Literature

Management / Finance
Many decisions an engineer makes have business consequences. Understanding business objectives will help you become more effective. Courses to Consider: Marketing, Management, Economics, Accounting, Business, Finance

International Awareness
Working in a global market requires an understanding of the cultural, geographic, economic, and environmental factors that influence decisions. Courses to Consider: Foreign Language / Literature, History, Political Science, Religious Studies, Economics, Study Abroad

Respect for Diversity
Engineers regularly work in group settings. Being able to interact effectively, professionally, and respectfully with others will make you a more capable team player.
Courses to Consider: Psychology, Philosophy, Sociology, Ethnic Studies, Women's Studies, Art, History, Literature, Religious Studies

Technical Skills
Chemical engineers work with engineers from other disciplines. Having an understanding of their work and area of expertise will strengthen your relationships with them.
Courses to Consider: Mathematics, Chemistry, Biology, Geology, Mechanical or Electrical Engineering Courses

Extracurricular activities allow you to develop a well-rounded knowledge and skill base. Social, service, academic, athletic, and professional groups and activities provide opportunities to network and improve leadership, organization, and communication skills. There are a variety of organizations you might consider joining.

Co-ops / Internships
Many employers expect candidates to have some type of experience and are more likely to give second interviews and job offers to students with an internship or co-op on their resumes.

Transfer Programs
You can enter an engineering program by transferring from a Junior College or by enrolling in a 3+2 program. Junior College students need to ensure that they are taking courses that will prepare them for a chemical engineering curriculum. 3+2 programs allow students to take three years of coursework at a liberal arts school then transfer for two years of study at a school with a chemical engineering program.

Graduate / Professional School
Chemical engineering skills and training make transitioning into graduate programs in business, law, medicine, and other sciences easier. Work with professors, mentors, and contacts to determine if a graduate degree fits your future. Graduate and professional schools look at undergraduate GPA along with standardized exam scores, extracurricular activities, awards and honors, work experience, and letters of recommendation, among other factors. They may require an interview. Many resources are available to help with this process. Find out more about different academic degrees. For more information:

Note: Some resources in this section are provided by the US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

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