It’s a question that many college students often ask themselves: what can I do with this degree? It’s important to ask, because the degree you choose – especially if it’s in a highly specialized field – will have an impact on what you do for the rest of your life.
Nowadays, it pays to think about what type of jobs will be popular in the future. With so many developments in sustainable living, choosing a related field of study – like chemical engineering – makes sense.
Chemical engineers are problem solvers, and you can expect to apply everything you learn about the principles and laws of chemistry and other sciences to solve these problems. Aside from chemical manufacturing, engineers work in the fuel, pharmaceutical drug and food industries, as well as other industries. Depending on your specialty and your industry, you may spend time designing processes or equipment for manufacturers or you may design methods for treating byproducts or handling other wastes. Chemical engineers often need to find answers to problems before those problems exist. And the work of chemical engineers makes life safer for others.
As the manufacturing industry continues to grow and environmentalism continues to expand as a movement, jobs within the chemical engineering field should continue to grow as well. However, job growth for this occupation is expected to grow by only six percent by 2020, meaning competition for available jobs could be higher than it is for other jobs.
The American Chemistry Society believes that chemical engineering has the broadest reach of engineering jobs, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics believes chemical engineers can expect to see positions soon move into professional and technical services. However, the green movement should help chemical engineers see even more growth in the field. Green chemistry uses a set of principles to reduce the use or generation of hazardous substances in numerous fields. Some of the goals of green chemistry include preventing waste, designing safer chemicals and products, designing chemicals to degrade after use and increasing energy efficiency.
Helping the environment
Chemical engineers have a unique opportunity to use their skills and knowledge of chemicals to create technology that helps the environment. By creating technologies that help clean chemicals, or creating other chemicals that are safer or degrade more quickly, a chemical engineer can have a significant impact on the environment. Particularly in industrial areas, chemical engineers are often used to limit the byproducts created by a company, or find a safe way of disposing of the byproducts that will have a minimal impact on the world outside of the factory walls.
An increasingly popular field for chemical engineers is water treatment. Water usage around the country is extremely high, and keeping that water safe and clean is increasingly important. As more pollutants – such as pharmaceutical drugs or herbicides – are found in streams and rivers across the country, chemical engineers are designing new methods to discover and measure foreign substances in water as well as methods and technologies to treat the water, making it safe again.