Have you ever wondered how many products we use daily which contain chemicals? Starting from your toothpaste in the morning, the toothbrushes, the soaps, and the shampoos to processed food, medicines, car fuel, lunch boxes, and even the clothes you wear, all these are chemical products and contain various chemicals. The perfumes or deodorants you use, the paints in the walls of your house and even car tires contain chemicals or require some chemicals for the production of the final products. All these chemical products and other products which contain chemicals are produced in manufacturing plants. Chemical Engineers work in these plants – they design processes, supervise production, troubleshoot production operations, check the quality of products and so on. Interested?
Chemical engineers have to apply principles of chemistry, biology, physics and mathematics to develop solutions for production-related problems that include using fuel, food, chemicals and other products. It is the job of a chemical engineer to develop processes for large-scale manufacturing plants. The design the flow of planning and testing of different production cycles and give solutions for managing by-products. Chemical engineers oversee the operations of such facilities.
Why become a Chemical Engineer?
Chemical Engineering is the area of engineering that involves the principle of chemistry along with engineering to produce, transform, transfer, and use chemicals, materials and energy. As a chemical engineer, you will be working at large-scale production sites involved in converting chemicals, raw materials, living microorganisms or cells and energy into useful products. As a chemical engineer, you will be involved in several ways at the plants and processes where production happens. You might be involved in plant designing, plant operations, plant safety, plant hazard and risk assessment, process designing and analysis quality control, chemical reaction, biological engineering, operating instructions, overall management, etc.
Popular specialization in Chemical Engineer profession
Ceramics and Cement Engineers are the specialists who create objects from inorganic and non-metalling substances. As a ceramic and cement engineer, you will study how to purify raw materials, produce chemical compounds, composition, etc. You will produce cement and several ceramic products. You will have expertise in raw material analysis ceramic processing, waste management, thermodynamics, equipment design, etc.
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What does a Chemical Engineer do?
As a Chemical Engineer, depending on your field of specialization, you would have the following roles and responsibilities:
- You will be required to analyze data from different experiments and processes.
- You will be required to develop safety procedures for employees working on operating equipment or working close to chemical reactions.
- You will develop a process that can separate components of liquid or gas.
- You will develop processes for general electrical current using chemical processes.
- You will solve problems with chemical manufacturing processes and equipment.
- You will work to optimize the processes and equipment used for chemical production. You will also ensure that processes comply with safety and environmental regulations.
- You will conduct research to develop new processes to manufacture chemicals
- You will conduct tests to monitor the performance of processes.
- You will estimate the cost of production and management of processes and equipment.
How to become a Chemical Engineer – eligibility criteria
To become a Chemical Engineer, you must obtain a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering or Chemical Technologies. Or you may first do a Diploma in Chemical Engineering after your class 10 and then take a lateral entry into the 2nd year of the 4-year Bachelor’s degree course in Chemical Engineering. Post your undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering, you may opt to do a Master’s degree in any of the following fields or related fields:
- Ceramic Engineering and Technologies
- Cement Technology
- Chemical Engineering
- Chemical Technologies
- Dyestuff Technologies
- Fibres & Textile Processing Technologies
- Leather Technology
- Oils, Oleochemicals &Surfectant Technologies
- Cosmetic Science & Technologies
- Paints Technologies
- Paper and Pulp Technologies
- Perfumery & Flavour Technologies
- Petrochemical Engineering
- Petroleum and Petrochemical Engineering
- Petroleum Engineering
- Plastic Engineering & Technologies
- Polymer Engineering
- Rubber Technologies
- Surface Coating Technologies
- Textile Engineering and Technologies
- As a Chemical Engineer, if you are working in the exploration of oil, gas, petroleum, plastic manufacturing companies, energy companies, fertilizers companies, etc. then you may start your career as an assistant engineer or assistant officer.
- As a Rubber technologist, you can join rubber manufacturing as a graduate engineer or trainee technologist.
- If you are into teaching, then you may join a college or university with the profile of an assistant professor.
- If you are into research, then you can join a research institute in the role of research associate.
- If you are into scientific research, then you can join as a Scientist with a Grade “C”.
You will find job opportunities at the following facilities:
- Government Oil & Gas Exploration companies like Indian Oil, Bharat Petroleum, Hindustan Oil Exploration Company, ONGC, Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation, etc.
- Private Oil & Gas Exploration companies like British Gas India, Shell India, Reliance, ESSAR, Cairn Energy, etc.
- Rubber Manufacturing and growing plants including Tyres industry (like MRF)
- Institutes and IITs teaching Chemical Engineering
- Fertilizers Companies
- Energy Companies
- Pharmaceutical Companies like Cipla, Ranbaxy, etc.
- Food and Drinks Companies
- Plastic material manufacturing companies like Bottles, Chairs, Polyethene, etc.
- Paint Companies like Berger, Asian Paint, etc.
- Soap and cosmetic companies like HUL, etc.
Chemical Engineers work mostly in offices or laboratories. If they are not working in offices, they may be on fieldwork including industrial plants, refineries, oilfields and other locations, where they monitor the chemical processing or operations or solve onsite problems. As a chemical engineer, you may be able to work on systems designed by others as most of the processes are quite complicated. You will work with several other technicians. Some of you will be travelling internationally and to remote places. Most of the time, you will be exposed to health and safety hazards like chemicals, metals, minerals, etc. You would sometimes be handling plants and chemicals that may be hazardous. So, you need to follow a strict protocol to keep yourself safe. Most of the time, you will be working full-time as per the prescribed official hours. However, while visiting plants, processes, etc. you might be working beyond official times especially while you are meeting your production targets or when solving some troubleshooting problems in the processes, machinery, etc.
Salary of a Chemical Engineer
- At the entry level, you can join as a research associate with a basic salary of Rs. 25,000 to 30,000. As a doctoral research fellow (junior research fellow) you would be earning around Rs. 35,000 to 38,000 per month. At the entry-level, as a Scientist (grade C) you would be earning around Rs. 80,000 to 100,000 per month. As an assistant professor, you would be earning anything between Rs. 65,000 to 70,000 per month. As a chemical engineer or Assistant engineer or assistant officer or rubber technologist, you would be earning anything between Rs. 25,000 to 1,60,000 per month.
- At the junior level with a work experience of 2-6 years, you would be earning anything between Rs. 80,000 to 1,80,000 per month.
- At the middle level with an experience of 10-12 years, you would be earning anything between Rs. 1,40,000 to 1,90,000 per month as a scientist and Rs. 1,20,000 to 1,60,000 as a professor and Rs. 1,00,000 to 2,40,000 as an engineer.
- At the senior level of over 15 years of work experience, you would be earning anything between Rs. 1,60,000 to 2,00,000 per month as a professor and Rs. 2,10,000 to 2,50,000 per month as a Scientist. As an Engineer, you would be earning anything between Rs. 1,20,000 to 4,00,000 per month.
Career progression in Chemical Engineer profession
- If you start as an assistant engineer then with promotion you will become a Chemical engineer, then senior chemical engineer, then toy may become a process engineer or production engineer or plant supervisor. From there you may be promoted to Production Manager/ Operations Manager/ Quality Control Engineer/ etc.
- The career growth in university and college states from Assistant Professor and then Associate Professor, Professor and Professor Emeritus. Professors can also get administrative positions such as Director/Dean/Vice Chancellor, etc
- If you are hired as a research associate, then you will go on to become a Doctoral Research Fellow, then Post-Doctoral Research Fellow and then Scientist in Progressive Grades.
- Research laboratories will hire you as a scientist/scientist officer with the lowest grade and the grade changes from low to high. In India, grades are “Scientist “C” as the joining level and then D, E, F, G, H, etc. A senior-level scientist can also get into administrative positions like Principal Scientist, Assistant Director, Deputy Director, Director, etc
What does industry trends say – future prospects
India is the third-largest producer of rubber and the fifth-largest consumer of synthetic and natural rubber combined in the world. Since the foundation of this industry in 1902, the Indian industry has been expanding at a good pace. With a turnover of around USD 5.6 billion, the industry employs over 4,00,000 people. Rubber production and consumption at present are increasing at a rate of 6.2% and 5.1% respectively.
The plastic industry is another industry that provides employment to chemical engineers. Currently, there are over 55,000 plastic processing units in India. They employ around 4,00,000 people. The production of polymers in India grew at a rate of 5.4% from 2002-2007 with the production levels reaching 5.2 million tonnes in 2007 from 3.9 million tonnes in 2002.
Both these industries are growing steadily at 5 to 6 percent and provide a good number of job opportunities for chemical engineers.
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