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Chemical Engineering Major

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Chemical Engineering

11,709 Bachelor's Degrees Annually
1,921 Master's Degrees Annually
#44 in Popularity
$113,680 Median Salary

Types of Degrees Chemical Engineering Majors Are Getting

The following table lists how many chemical engineering graduations there were in 2017-2018 for each degree level.

Education Level Number of Grads
Bachelor’s Degree 11,709
Master’s Degree 1,921
Doctor’s Degree 1,017
Associate’s Degree 41
Basic Certificate 30
Graduate Certificate 11

What Chemical Engineering Majors Need to Know

O*NET surveyed people in occupations related to chem eng and asked them what knowledge areas, skills, and abilities were important for their jobs. The responses were rated on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being most important.

Knowledge Areas for Chem Eng Majors

This major prepares you for careers in which these knowledge areas are important:

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  • Engineering and Technology - Knowledge of the practical application of engineering science and technology. This includes applying principles, techniques, procedures, and equipment to the design and production of various goods and services.
  • Mathematics - Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
  • English Language - Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
  • Design - Knowledge of design techniques, tools, and principles involved in production of precision technical plans, blueprints, drawings, and models.
  • Computers and Electronics - Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.

Skills for Chem Eng Majors

A major in chem eng prepares you for careers in which the following skill-sets are crucial:

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  • Critical Thinking - Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
  • Reading Comprehension - Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
  • Speaking - Talking to others to convey information effectively.
  • Active Listening - Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
  • Judgment and Decision Making - Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.

Abilities for Chem Eng Majors

As you progress with your chem eng degree, there are several abilities you should pick up that will help you in whatever related career you choose. These abilities include:

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  • Written Comprehension - The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
  • Oral Comprehension - The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
  • Oral Expression - The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
  • Deductive Reasoning - The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
  • Inductive Reasoning - The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).

What Can You Do With a Chemical Engineering Major?

Below is a list of occupations associated with chem eng:

Job Title Job Growth Rate Median Salary
Architectural and Engineering Managers 5.5% $140,760
Biochemical Engineers 6.4% $96,980
Biofuels/Biodiesel Technology and Product Development Managers 5.5% $140,760
Chemical Engineers 7.3% $104,910
Engineering Professors 14.7% $101,720
Nanosystems Engineers 6.4% $96,980

Who Is Getting a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemical Engineering?

11,709 Bachelor's Degrees Annually
35% Percent Women
29% Percent Racial-Ethnic Minorities
Chemical Engineering runs middle of the road when it comes to popularity, ranking #44 out of all the undergraduate majors we track. In 2018, about 11,709 graduates completed their bachelor’s degree in this field. This major attracts more men than women. About 65% of the graduates in this field are male.

Racial-Ethnic Diversity

At the countrywide level, the racial-ethnic distribution of chem eng majors is as follows:

Racial-Ethnic Diversity of Chem Eng Students with Bachelor's Degrees
Race/Ethnicity Number of Grads
Asian 1,464
Black or African American 455
Hispanic or Latino 1,061
White 6,756
International Students 1,296
Other Races/Ethnicities 677

Geographic Diversity

Chem Eng appeals to people across the globe. About 11.1% of those with this major are international students. The most popular countries for students from outside the country are:

  • China
  • India
  • Saudi Arabia
  • South Korea
  • Kuwait

How Much Do Chemical Engineering Majors Make?

Bachelor’s Degree Starting Salary

Data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that chemical engineering students who graduated in 2015-2017 with a bachelor’s degree made a median starting salary of $64,750 per year. During this timeframe, most salaries fell between $56,825 (25th percentile) and $68,875 (75th percentile).

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It’s important to note that just because the people reporting these salaries have a degree in chem eng, it does not mean that they are working in a job related to their degree.

Salaries According to BLS

Average salaries range from $99,410 to $114,470 (25th to 75th percentile) for careers related to chem eng. This range includes all degree levels, so you may expect those with a more advanced degree to make more while those with less advanced degrees will typically make less.

To put that into context, according to BLS data from the first quarter of 2020, the typical high school graduate makes between $30,000 and $57,900 a year (25th through 75th percentile). The average person with a bachelor’s degree (any field) makes between $45,600 and $99,000. Advanced degree holders make the most with salaries between $55,600 and $125,400.

Median Salary for a Chemical Engineering Major  ( 99410 to 114470 )
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250K
Median Salary for a High School Graduate  ( 30000 to 57900 )
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250K
Median Salary for a Bachelor's Degree Holder  ( 45600 to 99000 )
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Median Salary for an Advanced Degree Holder  ( 55600 to 125400 )
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250K

Some careers associated with chem eng require an advanced degree while some may not even require a bachelor’s. In general, the more advanced your degree the more career options will open up to you. However, there is significant time and money that needs to be invested into your education so weigh the pros and cons.

Find out what the typical degree level is for chem eng careers below.

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Education Level Percentage of Workers
High School Diploma - or the equivalent (for example, GED) 0.3%
Post-Secondary Certificate - awarded for training completed after high school (for example, in agriculture or natural resources, computer services, personal or culinary services, engineering technologies, healthcare, construction trades, mechanic and repair technologies, or precision production) 1.6%
Associate’s Degree (or other 2-year degree) 1.6%
Bachelor’s Degree 47.8%
Post-Baccalaureate Certificate - awarded for completion of an organized program of study; designed for people who have completed a Baccalaureate degree but do not meet the requirements of academic degrees carrying the title of Master. 3.3%
Master’s Degree 23.3%
Post-Master’s Certificate - awarded for completion of an organized program of study; designed for people who have completed a Master’s degree but do not meet the requirements of academic degrees at the doctoral level. 2.9%
First Professional Degree - awarded for completion of a program that: requires at least 2 years of college work before entrance into the program, includes a total of at least 6 academic years of work to complete, and provides all remaining academic requirements to begin practice in a profession. 1.2%
Doctoral Degree 14.7%
Post-Doctoral Training 3.2%

Online Chemical Engineering Programs

In the 2017-2018 academic year, 194 schools offered some type of chemical engineering program. The following table lists the number of programs by degree level, along with how many schools offered online courses in the field.

Degree Level Colleges Offering Programs Colleges Offering Online Classes
Certificate (Less Than 1 Year) 1 0
Certificate (1-2 years) 0 0
Certificate (2-4 Years) 0 0
Associate’s Degree 18 1
Bachelor’s Degree 8 2
Post-Baccalaureate 1 0
Master’s Degree 145 16
Post-Master’s 4 0
Doctor’s Degree (Research) 113 1
Doctor’s Degree (Professional Practice) 0 0
Doctor’s Degree (Other) 1 0

Is a Degree in Chemical Engineering Worth It?

The median salary for a chem eng grad is $113,680 per year. This is based on the weighted average of the most common careers associated with the major.

This is 185% more than the average salary for an individual holding a high school degree. This adds up to a gain of about $1,475,600 after 20 years!

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You may also be interested in one of the following majors related to chem eng.

Major Number of Grads
Mechanical Engineering 46,014
Electrical Engineering 31,993
Civil Engineering 21,299
Computer Engineering 15,329
Biomedical Engineering 11,483
General Engineering 11,245
Industrial Engineering 9,714
Aerospace & Aeronautical Engineering 6,315
Materials Engineering 3,555
Systems Engineering 3,439
Other Engineering 2,900
Petroleum Engineering 2,818
Environmental Engineering 2,746
Operations Research 1,555
Agricultural Engineering 1,546
Engineering Science 1,509
Nuclear Engineering 1,050
Engineering Physics 1,028
Manufacturing Engineering 920
Architectural Engineering 874
Construction Engineering 870
Robotics Engineering 755
Geoscience Engineering 510
Marine Engineering 506
Mining Engineering 434
Biological Engineering 400
Textile Engineering 359
Polymer & Plastics Engineering 348
Engineering Mechanics 329
Ocean Engineering 305
Metallurgical Engineering 218
Biochemical Engineering 124
Ceramic Engineering 111
Electromechanical Engineering 84
Surveying Engineering 73
Paper Science & Engineering 51
Forest Engineering 39
Engineering Chemistry 5

References

More about our data sources and methodologies.

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