Chemical engineer

process engineer biochemical engineer

Career outlook for chemical engineer

Figures and forecasts for roles at the same level, which require similar skills and qualifications.

Average UK salary

£41,080

Currently employed in Scotland

4,900

Average UK salary

£41,080

Currently employed in Scotland

4,900

"LMI for All" supplies our salary and employment status information. "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures.

Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

What's it like?

You'd do research to improve the manufacturing methods used to turn raw materials into fuel, plastics, food, medicine and more.

You'd also be involved in altering the chemical state of a substance to create products such as medicines, fuels or face creams.

You might also work on developing the machines used in production processes.

You could also work as a biochemical engineer. Taking exciting scientific discoveries to find more cost-effective and environmentally friendly manufacturing processes. You might also be involved in the creation of products such as new medicines or developing green sustainable technologies. 

It's likely you'd specialise in working in manufacturing or in research and development. However, some employers would give you the chance to work in both fields.

If you worked in research and development, you would:

  • Test new ways to develop products in the lab
  • Use computer models to work out the safest and most cost-effective production methods
  • Use lab tests to try out a pilot phase of production
  • Plan how to take pilot projects to large-scale industrial processing
  • Develop methods to deal with by-products and waste materials in a safe way

In manufacturing, you would:

  • Work with plant designers to create equipment for the production process
  • Help to oversee the day-to-day operation of the processing plant
  • Check production and deal with problems
  • Work closely with quality control managers
  • Work closely with health and safety managers

You might also manage a team of chemical engineering technicians.

Working conditions

Hours

In research and development you would usually work 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. You may need to work overtime to meet project deadlines. In processing and manufacturing, you might work on a shift system, including weekends, evenings and nights.

Environment

You could be based in a lab, an office or a processing plant. In some environments you may need to wear protective clothing or use safety equipment such as safety glasses, ear protectors or a hard hat.

UK employment status

Full-time

93%

Part-time

4%

Self employed

4%

Here are some of the skills needed for this job. Sign in to see how your skills match up.

  • Verbal communication
  • Working with technology
  • Evaluating
  • Problem solving
  • Working with numbers
  • Researching
  • Attention to detail
  • Filtering
  • Developing a plan
  • Analysing

Skills Explorer

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To understand more, have a look at What are my skills?

Our Skills Explorer tool will help you understand what skills you have and match them to jobs that might suit you.

Use the Skills Explorer tool

Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you’ll need.

Foundation Apprenticeships

Choosing a Foundation Apprenticeship as one of your subjects in S5 and S6 can help you get a head start with this type of job.

You'll get an SCQF level 6 qualification (the same level as a Higher) plus valuable work placement experience and skills you can't learn in a classroom.

Interested? Find out what's on offer at your school on Apprenticeships.scot.

Qualifications

You would need a degree (SCQF level 10/11) in Chemical Engineering or relevant work-based experience and qualifications such as a Scottish Vocational Qualification in:

  • Engineering (SVQ level 3/4)
  • Oil and Gas Production (SVQ level 3)
  • Gas Industry (SVQ level 2/3)

Entry to a chemical engineering degree (SCQF level 9/10) requires National 5 qualifications, Highers at BBBB or above.

An integrated masters qualifications such as an MEng can also be studied at university. 

If you have a degree in a different branch of engineering or a related subject like chemistry or polymer science, a postgraduate qualification in chemical or process engineering may increase your chances of finding employment.   

Useful subjects

  • Maths (required by many courses and employers)
  • Science subjects, in particular chemistry and/or physics (required by many courses and employers)
  • Technologies subjects (required by many courses and employers)
  • English
  • Engineering science

Helpful to have

Qualifications that show understanding and experience of the industry such as Skills for Work Engineering Skills (SCQF level 5).

Employers value work experience so finding courses with work placements or an internship, or working for a year in industry can be especially useful.

It could benefit your career if you worked towards incorporated or chartered status; to do this you would register with a relevant industry body and apply to the Engineering Council.