Major Resource Kit

Chemical Engineering

Chemical engineers turn new advances in chemistry, materials science, and biology into large scale practical realities in the everyday world. Chemical engineers are directly or indirectly responsible for the production of the fuel we burn and the food we eat, for the purification of water and air, and for the recovery and use of raw materials. They ensure the efficient operation of industrial plants and create new chemical processes in a continual effort to get the most from our limited supply of natural resources.

The study of chemical engineering has traditionally relied upon concepts drawn from mathematics, chemistry, and physics. The concern with biotechnology, biochemical engineering, and environmental issues has led students to include the life sciences as well in their programs. As a result, it is an attractive major for students with a wide range of scientific interests and lends itself to specialization at a later time. This broad scientific background provides the basis not only for employment in the traditional chemical process industries, but for constructive and innovative approaches to ecology, energy and conservation, the production of pharmaceuticals using genetically engineered organisms, and such areas as the development of artificial organs for humans from biologically compatible tissue. A number of students use the broad technological basis of this curriculum to prepare for graduate work in areas of medicine, law and business which require the scientific application of ideas.

For further information, contact the Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies, 237A Colburn Lab, (302) 831-8905


One of the frequent tendencies that students in technical disciplines have is to inextricably link their career possibilities with their academic major. They seldom realize that a major is largely an administratively convenient tool used by a college or university to categorize students.

There is not always an obvious parallel between your engineering major and an occupational field. In the same way that accountants are used as computer information systems analysts along with those having computer science backgrounds, engineers work in capacities other than hands-on engineering. Said in another way, just as the same job can be filled with individuals from a variety of academic backgrounds, so individuals with the same major can qualify for many different jobs.

While the realization that more career options are open to you as a technical major than you previously were aware of can be uplifting, it also poses the dilemma of identifying and narrowing down the appropriate options. To remedy this confusion, it is helpful to approach your career selection in terms of the types of functions you wish to perform within an organization. An example might be a mechanical engineer who determines that he/she would like to function in a sales or marketing capacity instead of in a manufacturing role due to his/her interests, persuasive skills, and outgoing personality.

Job titles differ from industry to industry and company to company. Because job classifications are not standardized, trying to determine your fit among seemingly endless lists of titles can be very confusing and frustrating. Thinking of jobs in functional terms provides a way of organizing the multitude of job titles you will encounter in company literature and employment ads. Thinking in terms of functions will, therefore, allow you to clearly indicate to potential employers exactly what you want to do regardless of what the job title is.


Research and Development: Designs and performs experiments and interprets the data obtained. Invents and creates new ways of developing products, controlling pollution, reducing safety and health hazards, and conserving natural resources.

Biomechanics applies experimental and computational approaches to explore biomechanical function across multiple scales including the molecule, cell, tissue, organ, and whole body.

Design and Construction (Project Engineers): Designs and constructs chemical manufacturing facilities. After construction they may assist in equipment testing, operator training and plant start-up.

Operations/Production: Responsible for the day-to-day operation of a manufacturing facility. Primary interest is in the economic and safe production of a product.

Technical Sales: Introduces new products to customers and assesses why some products do better than others in the market place.

Environmental and Waste Management: Devises techniques to recover usable materials from waste products. Develops methods to reduce the pollution created during the manufacturing of a product. Designs waste storage and treatment facilities as well as pollution control strategies for plant operations.

Check the Dictionary of Occupational Titles under section 008 for additional related careers.

Enhancing Employability

Some Employers of Engineering Majors

Other Sources of Information

Candid Careers

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