Monday, June 13, 2011

Chemical engineers fare better than chemists. In other news, dog bites man.

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. 


  1. For what it's worth...

    "In the Midwest, according to the Employers Resource Association, those leaving campus with bachelor's degrees will fare best in software engineering ($62,879, up 17 percent from a year ago), nursing ($57,840) and chemical engineering ($53,088)."

  2. I read this and other Chemistry blogs and dream of another world where I could feasibly enter the Chemistry field as a researcher and not starve/scavenge for jobs, but this is the year 2011 and even when I entered University in fall 2008, every logical piece of advice said to not pursue a degree in Chemistry and to enter Chemical Engineering. And I am not alone, there are quite a few Chemical Engineering majors I know who also say they entered because they love Chemistry but love the idea of a stable job that pays enough for things like insurance better.

    I hear snide comments from the Chemistry professors about us Chemical Engineers but these days it's really one of the only options that someone who loves Chemistry can pursue if they plan on a career straight-out-of-college who doesn't go to a top 20 school and/or take on debilitating piles of debt. That last bit right there is why I chose Chemical Engineering over Chemistry.

    Just thought you'd guys would like to see what it's like for those of us who didn't want to take the risk to pursue Chemistry directly. I was planning on going to Grad school for a Chemistry, but from this blog here and elsewhere, I would most likely just end up shooting myself in the foot that way.

  3. I have done chemist and chemical engineer related jobs in industry.

    My training (and unfortunately) pay are as a chemist.

    Engineers have better stability because their business results have a faster turnaround time. Business results can be quantified.

    It is also much cheaper to do chemical engineering research than most chemistry.

    Business leaders want their scientists to "Show them the money." Engineers are in a better position to do this than chemists.

  4. I agree with all who have posted. Salaries in the private sector are almost always related to "perceived" contribution to the bottom line rather than smarts or technological know-how. This "perceived" contribution is manifested in one's ability to build and lead teams in the work-place. That's my 2 cents. Regards, Kevin


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20