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What Is Chemical Engineering?

Chemical engineering is a multi-disciplinary branch of engineering that combines natural and experimental sciences (such as chemistry and physics), along with life sciences (such as biology, microbiology and biochemistry) plus mathematics and economics to design, produce, transform, develop, transport, operate and manage industrial processes that turn raw materials into valuable products. Almost everything you use on a daily basis has passed through a Chemical Engineers hands at some point – isn’t that amazing!

Many of the processes within chemical engineering involve chemical reactions, and the field takes cues from chemists who are looking for new ways to create products and to investigate the mechanisms within chemical reactions. Chemical engineers then translate this chemical information to formulate engineering designs that can be later fabricated through other engineering disciplines. The origin of Chemical Engineers was to bridge the gap between science and engineering.

What Are The Entry Requirements?

The entry requirements for chemical engineering degrees usually consists of a strong background in chemistry and mathematics, while knowledge of other sciences is beneficial. Some background knowledge of the nature of chemical engineering and its various real-world applications is also a good way to prove to university admissions that you have a keen interest in pursuing a chemical engineering degree. Not only that you will be ahead of the game in knowing what to expect during your studies. 

Many institutions accept a range of entry routes and qualifications into chemical engineering. Some institutions are even more flexible than others, accepting students from all disciplines. And, if you don’t have the required grades or subjects needed for entry, some institutions offer a foundation course to help you get up to speed with the required skills and knowledge.

If you have a diploma, HNC/HND or similar lower-level certificate in chemical engineering from a recognized institution, you may be able to be admitted directly into the second or even third year of a chemical engineering degree program – check with the institution(s) you are interested in to find out if this is an option.

What To Expect From Your Degree?

Chemical Engineering Entry Requirements

Undergraduate-level chemical engineering degrees are generally between three and four years for a Bachelors or five years for a Masters. The duration varies based on the institution and the country in which you study but also depends on whether you choose to study a Bachelor of Engineering (BEng) or a Master of Engineering (MEng) – also referred to as a Bachelor of Science (BS) or Master of Science (MS) depending on national naming conventions.

The BEng will last three to four years and the MEng four to five years. Some institutions may also offer the chance for BEng students to transfer to a related MEng degree program during the latter half of their degree, provided they meet certain academic requirements. Conversely, those enrolled on the MEng program may be able to cut short their degree and graduate with a BEng instead.

The MEng allows students to develop a greater depth of chemical engineering skills, knowledge in chemical engineering and complete a wider range of project work; including your own dissertation; check out our post on the top dissertation ideas. Once you have accumulated the necessary work experience, qualifications, skills and knowledge, an accredited MEng also allows you to gain the status of Chartered Chemical Engineer. Many institutions offer a “sandwich year”, in which students spend one year working in industry and/or studying abroad. You may also be able to combine chemical engineering with other disciplines such as environmental engineering, business management, foreign languages and subjects in the humanities.

Regardless of whether you choose a BEng or MEng, you’ll begin your degree program with some core chemical engineering courses, covering fields such as pure and applied mathematics, computing and computer-aided design (CAD), and the sciences. You’ll then proceed to study these topics in more depth, with the option to specialize by choosing from a range of selected courses. You can also expect to learn about the wider context of chemical engineering, including financial, ethical and environmental issues, and may have the opportunity to study business, finance and management courses.

Typically, chemical engineering courses are taught through a combination of lectures, tutorials, seminars, computer practice sessions, extensive practical laboratory work and project work (individual and group). Some institutions will offer online teaching, as well as site visits (or field work). Your institution may also be able to provide classes by industry professionals, who will give an insight to current industrial practices and concerns.

Final assessment is typically a substantial research and development project, but you may also be tested through written examination, coursework, laboratory reports, multiple choice examinations, oral presentations, and interviews.

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