Before beginning down the road to become a chemical engineer, there are some important questions that need to be asked and evaluated. Right at the top of that list is whether or not chemical engineers are in demand. If you graduate with a sparkling new degree, but you enter a field where you won’t be able to find gainful employment, that doesn’t do you much good. Below, you’ll find an overview of what to expect in terms of career opportunities and job prospects for chemical engineering.
The go-to source of information in terms of job outlook in the United States is the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS is the one stop shop for all of this kind of data, and they make projections about what to expect for all industries, careers and job types. The active projection period is the decade from 2008 to 2018, so what do the numbers show for chemical engineering?
Well, the BLS actually projects a slight decline in the total number of jobs available for chemical engineers over this time. There’s a projected two percent decline, which in terms of actual numbers of active chemical engineers, it lowers the pool from 31,700 to 31,000. Now, this is a great concern to students currently pursuing their degrees, as well as those considering going down that road as well.
It’s not the complete picture though, and before you worry too much, chemical engineers are in very high demand in other engineering fields. Chemical engineers can find work in nearly any field of engineering, including aerospace engineering, environmental engineering, agricultural engineering, petroleum engineering, biomedical engineering, materials engineering, industrial engineering and more.
Many of these fields are the quickest growing areas of engineering on the whole, so while “chemical” engineering may be on a slight decline, the skills of a chemical engineer can be readily applied elsewhere, and they routinely are. That means that chemical engineers are greatly on the rise, despite that projection… they just might not be known or classified as a chemical engineer.
For example, there’s a 72% projected growth in biomedical engineering. Environmental engineering has a 31% projected growth, and petroleum engineering has an 18% projected growth. It’s in these areas and other areas of engineering where chemical engineering graduates are finding work, and are indeed very highly in demand. That’s only the beginning to, because any industry with a need for analysis, problem-solving, developing new efficiencies and strategies and more can draw heavily from chemical engineering.
The bottom line is that while the BLS does project a slight decline in the specific field of chemical engineering, that’s only a partial perspective. Chemical engineers are finding work in many different disciplines of engineering and entirely different industries on top of that. The skills, education and training you receive as a chemical engineer will make you in high demand no matter where you end up landing, and regardless of whether it falls into the narrow scope or best fit of what a chemical engineer is defined as, you’ll enjoy a wide array of job opportunities.