From today's edition of Chemical and Engineering News, an article on the hiring of chemical engineers in the biotech world by Sophie Rovner:
Chemical engineering employment is “always steady, with fewer ups and downs in the job market” than chemists have to contend with, says David G. Jensen, managing director for biopharmaceutical life sciences at Kincannon & Reed, a Waynesboro, Va., executive search firm. “I’ve been doing this work for 25 years and have never seen a downtime for biotech chemical process development engineers,” adds Jensen, who writes extensively about careers and also moderates the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s online Science Careers Forum.
Robust demand for chemical engineers may explain why wages are holding up well in the profession. In a survey of salaries for 2011 bachelor’s degree graduates, chemical engineers placed first, with an average salary offer of $66,886, according to the National Association of Colleges & Employers.
The American Chemical Society’s own surveys of members consistently show that chemical engineering graduates receive higher salaries and are more likely to hold permanent full-time jobs than graduates with degrees in chemistry (C&EN, March 14, page 52).Rovner's article is pretty interesting, with a couple of in-depth looks at what chemical engineers do on a regular basis. A small point: Rovner doesn't cover (IIRC) what I see as the broad economic sweep, which is that the smaller companies that were looking at bio-based materials during the 2007-2008 oil price spike (e.g. the Amyrises of the world) are now large enough and developed enough to be hiring chemical engineers to develop their processes to larger scale. I wonder if I'm right.
Another note: Hanson's short article (also linked above) is worth reading, if only to see that the broader economic trends are hitting chemical engineers as well.
It's apparent to me that if you're mathematically, mechanically and chemically inclined, you should think long and hard about a career in chemical engineering. I'll note (said the fox, looking at the grapes) that I have worked with chemical engineers a number of times. I've never envied what they do, but I have always envied* their salaries.
*I'm not much a salary envier, I might note; if I was, I don't think I could deal with life very well.