Chemical Engineering - A Good Degree Choice? Advice Please.

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Cuddlermum
Posts: 48
Joined: Sat Sep 05, 2015 3:42 pm

Chemical Engineering - A Good Degree Choice? Advice Please.

Post by Cuddlermum »

DS 2 is in the process of completing his application to UCAS. He was thinking of taking Computer Science but I encouraged him to also look at Chem Eng. He likes chemistry and I thought this subject might suit him well (this thought only from my reading up on it a little as I have no experience of it personally). He is taking A level Maths, Com Sci & Chemistry. he did also start physics but dropped it as he wasn't enjoying it, also said he found it hard but wasn't working well at the time. He is now fully motivated & coping well with these remaining subjects. He does also enjoy programming.

We have visited Loughborough, Leeds & Sheffield & been to the talks & departments for Chem Eng & Comp Science. After these visits, he has decided to apply for Chem Eng. We will possibly also look at Birmingham & may apply to Lancaster and/or Bath but not visit these before applicant days. Obviously he will need to narrow his choices down to the five allowed.

My main concern is that, today, I have read a topic on TSR saying Chem Eng is boring - avoid it . Many other posters agreed to the OP, only a few disagreed. The main issues appeared to be that there is little chemistry involved, it's mainly a process degree, not exciting or interesting and few job prospects due to there being more chem engineers than jobs available. Apparently these jobs are also open to mechanical engineers who often get the job offers. It was also said that most jobs are in the oil/gas industries which the respondents said are volatile. Many students had panicked over the OP's post & I admit it has raised doubts in my mind too. I should add that this was a topic posted four years ago, now there appears to be areas of interest for the subject such as renewables, environmental, maybe these have given rise to better job prospects?

DS is interested in nuclear engineering but not 100% sure if he will like it as a career (he did a week's virtual work exp with the NNL after Yr11) but also wants to apply for any Ordnance, Munitions, Explosive apprenticeships that may arise (degree apprenticeships). His preferred uni so far is Leeds because of the nuclear option in Chem Eng in year 3.

I have mentioned this all to him & he will now also look at materials science as a possible degree choice. It's not that I wanted to put the doubt in his mind, but because I would prefer him to get this right first time. His work motivations (at the moment) are to have an interesting job that pays well.

I would love advice from any engineers especially those in chemical or materials engineering roles please. Anyone working in the nuclear sector, I would love to hear as well please.
Also, any thoughts on his uni choices greatly appreciated, any other recommendations?

Thanks in advance.
Tinkers
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Joined: Mon May 16, 2011 2:05 pm
Location: Reading

Re: Chemical Engineering - A Good Degree Choice? Advice Plea

Post by Tinkers »

I’m a chemical engineer.

I’m in a bit of a rush this morning so this is short.

It’s not boring. There’s not hoards of chemistry in a chem Eng degree. And it’s a very varied discipline leading to all sorts of possible careers.

The process dept at DHs company is 250 people and they need 50 more. There’s currently plenty of work. The average salary reflects this. If there was an excess the salary would be far less.

Oil & gas is volatile, and yes that’s where most work is, but is not the only industry by any means, and my previous company (that does mainly O&G work, is moving into renewables etc as well, plus petrochems is not as volatile). There’s definitely a shortage of people in specialist chem Eng roles, particularly safety, environmental and process control (and I’ve done 2 out of 3 of those, and worked closely with the third discipline).
Id disagree with the mech Eng getting chem Eng jobs, unless you start talking about project management roles, and again would depend on the industry as well.

Chememg could easily lead him into nuclear whereas a nuclear Eng degree may limit him a bit, however doing it as an option of a chem Eng degree would be a good option. (I’ve worked in the nuclear industry in the past, and honestly I’m not sure I’d recommend it, but that could just be me).

Uni choices look good. I would recommend courses with placements, and definitely look at MEng courses (or look at doing a masters after). He will need a masters or equivalent to get chartered later.

Can answer more later but need to pop out,
Tinkers
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Joined: Mon May 16, 2011 2:05 pm
Location: Reading

Re: Chemical Engineering - A Good Degree Choice? Advice Plea

Post by Tinkers »

https://www.icheme.org/education/whynotchemeng/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

In case you and DS have not seen it.
solimum
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Joined: Wed May 09, 2007 3:09 pm
Location: Solihull, West Midlands

Re: Chemical Engineering - A Good Degree Choice? Advice Plea

Post by solimum »

My OH used to work at ICheme head office so I am well aware of all the pro-chemeng arguments too! It used to be top/ near the top of graduate salaries which also indicates a strong demand.

Degree apprenticeships are a newer option which I would certainly be looking at for any students nowadays (I'm not up to date with the chem eng versions) - just make sure any degree is properly certified and students are able to move towards chartered status. Tinkers' link will I'm sure be very helpful.

A friend's son who did Chem Eng at Aston had no trouble getting work including a spell in the nuclear energy - he's moved elsewhere now but has had a good start to a varied career. Pharmaceutical manufacture (who do you think got those vaccines made in vast quantities scaled up from the lab? ) renewables/ battery tech and food processing/ brewing are other areas where process engineers are needed.

But yes there is going to be less actual chemistry than a pure chemistry degree. Having your reactions at an industrial scale has different challenges than (say) biochemical reactions in a test tube testing cancer drugs. A level labels are often a poor indicator of degree options in many subjects.
Cuddlermum
Posts: 48
Joined: Sat Sep 05, 2015 3:42 pm

Re: Chemical Engineering - A Good Degree Choice? Advice Plea

Post by Cuddlermum »

Thank you Tinkers and Solimum for your replies.
We have seen the ICheme website before but will revisit it.
It's reassuring to hear that Chem Engineers are in demand, the universities did a good job of telling us that was the case, but you never know if they are just "selling" their courses.

He is also looking at degree apprenticeships right now, some are up for application already (they are called a process degree for chem eng, I believe). The issue is whether he wants to go down the science or engineering route ie chem eng, chemistry or materials. I'm looking at the job ads (graduate, placements, apprenticeship) and their requirements. Myself and DH are accountants so this is all new to us.
He has previously said he doesn't fancy just doing chemistry for three years though, so that's why I suggested chem eng.
We have realised that a masters will be needed eventually and agree that a year in industry is excellent value as well.
The Ordnance, Munitions & Explosives also appeals which is more chemistry and materials based.

It does appear to lead to many careers which is appealing. He is interested in pharmaceuticals as well.
Ideally, I'd like him to pick a few job ads and tell me those are the ones he wants to do, but in reality, he just isn't sure yet - so difficult to make the decision at 17.

Solimum - A levels being a poor indicator of degree options, this makes it so difficult for them to decide.

Tinkers - I may PM you about the nuclear jobs at some point, if you don't mind.

Thanks again, I may come back with more questions. He is seeing a careers advisor in school tomorrow, so I hope he makes effective use of that chat.
Tinkers
Posts: 7224
Joined: Mon May 16, 2011 2:05 pm
Location: Reading

Re: Chemical Engineering - A Good Degree Choice? Advice Plea

Post by Tinkers »

Yes, feel free to PM.

It’s a very varied profession, and opens up a wide variety of jobs. I’ve know a few go into banking and finance. My previous company has some engineers that then took a law conversion course, which means they understand engineering contracts and what they are based on, but also the contract law behind them too.

My career has been very varied.
Cuddlermum
Posts: 48
Joined: Sat Sep 05, 2015 3:42 pm

Re: Chemical Engineering - A Good Degree Choice? Advice Plea

Post by Cuddlermum »

Thanks everyone for your responses.
DS2 is going ahead with his Chem Eng UCAS application.
He is also applying for some degree apprenticeships; these will certainly keep him busy.
JemimahPlus
Posts: 7
Joined: Thu Aug 18, 2022 10:06 am

Re: Chemical Engineering - A Good Degree Choice? Advice Plea

Post by JemimahPlus »

Hi @Cuddlermum! Just two points:

Maths is important. Further Maths is handy and will open up more options.

I noticed that Cambridge now offers only 'Chem Eng & BioTech'. Worth looking at BioTech, too, and how much of this each Uni offers?
Tinkers
Posts: 7224
Joined: Mon May 16, 2011 2:05 pm
Location: Reading

Re: Chemical Engineering - A Good Degree Choice? Advice Plea

Post by Tinkers »

Would definitely agree f maths is useful.
Biotech/biochemical engineering option could either be very useful or completely not useful depending where you end up. I did a biotech option and I know my boss did biochemical Eng as part of his. Neither of us has used it. However if you end up in that sort of industry it’s obviously going to be beneficial. If it’s of interest then go for it. I did and enjoyed it, just not used it.
Cuddlermum
Posts: 48
Joined: Sat Sep 05, 2015 3:42 pm

Re: Chemical Engineering - A Good Degree Choice? Advice Please.

Post by Cuddlermum »

Thank you everyone for your responses, all comments taken on board and greatly appreciated.

DS isn't taking further maths but is very able at the subject so hopefully he will be okay on that.

Tinkers - I have sent you a PM.
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