Chemistry vs Chemical Engineering: Career ROI

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Updated: February 22, 2024, Reading time: 7 minutes

Chemistry vs Chemical Engineering - featured image

You’ve probably heard of cases where Chemistry graduates pursue Chemical Engineering careers or vice versa. It’s possible, especially since these two degrees have a lot in common. However, they, too, have distinct differences. 

Chemistry vs Chemical Engineering - fact

Each field offers unique training and education to help students pursue career-specific positions. In fact, pursuing one college degree to apply for positions in the other is possible with additional training or education to bridge the gaps between the two disciplines. 

For instance, if you’ve graduated in Chemistry and want to work as a chemical engineer, you must dedicate additional time and money to pursuing specific Chemical Engineering courses. You’ll be required to take on staged separations and engineering materials, among other courses not offered in Chemistry degrees. 

What is Chemistry?

What is Chemistry - Image

Chemistry is often called the ‘center of science.’ This branch of physical sciences sits between Biology and Physics, studying matter’s composition, structure, properties, and changes. It studies everything, from atoms and electrons to the interactions between different molecules and particles.

Chemistry Courses and Career Pathways

When pursuing a Chemistry degree, you must be prepared for demanding coursework, sleepless nights, and extensive lab requirements. Chemistry is among the most active disciplines today, and its competitiveness starts at the undergraduate level.

As you progress through your Chemistry degree, you’ll encounter challenging coursework that covers fundamental principles, advanced theories, and cutting-edge research in various subfields of Chemistry.

As an undergraduate student in Chemistry, you’ll focus on fundamental Chemistry principles to prepare you for the advanced coursework of a Master’s in Chemistry program. The master’s program consists of:

Earn a Doctor of Chemistry to qualify for academic and research leadership positions as experts in Chemistry. This level also includes courses in allied disciplines like Engineering, Pharmacology, and Medicine.

Chemistry Salary and Job Outlook

As experts in industrial chemicals, consumer goods, energy technologies, and computing devices, chemists work in chemical manufacturing, research and development, testing laboratories, waste management and remediation, and government agencies. 

The pharmaceutical industry is a primary employer of chemists. The sector will need Chemistry experts to develop nanotechnology for medicinal purposes and enhance environmental safety in the chemical manufacturing sector.

Employment opportunities for chemists are expected to reach 7,200 openings per year. Chemists make $80,670 a year on average.

Essential Skills of a Chemist

Chemists must be proficient in conducting research, analyzing substances, mastering laboratory skills, communicating results, understanding product development, and potentially taking on leadership roles in research departments. They also need to be proficient in data analysis.

Chemistry is for you if:

Chemistry is not a great fit for you if:

What is Chemical Engineering?

What is Chemical Engineering - Image

Chemical Engineering is thought to be more comprehensive than Chemistry programs. It encompasses Engineering, Mathematics, Economics, and Natural and Experimental Sciences.

These subjects are essential in designing, developing, producing, transforming, transporting, operating, and managing industrial processes that convert raw materials into valuable products.

As a chemical engineer, you will design, manufacture, and operate large-scale industrial chemical, biological, or related processes. You will develop new or adapted substances for various products.

As such, you should expect a more meticulous and rigorous educational journey!

Chemical Engineering Courses and Career Pathways

Chemical Engineering programs start with courses like fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, heat transfer, and mass transfer. As you pursue Engineering in graduate school, you’ll delve deeper into specialized areas such as process control, chemical kinetics, reactor design, and separation processes.

In most cases, you’ll be required to participate in advanced research opportunities and contribute to cutting-edge developments in the field. Chemical Engineering programs emphasize laboratory work, research projects, and co-op placements.

Chemical Engineering Salary and Job Outlook

Chemistry Engineering jobs may require at least a bachelor’s degree. Graduates work as process engineers and environmental scientists, focusing on waste reduction, product improvement, process design, and environmental issues.

To land better career opportunities, Chemical Engineering graduates must pursue certifications as part of their career progression. Here are the top certifications chemical engineers must obtain for better career opportunities:

Chemical engineers are usually employed in engineering services firms, research and development, and petroleum and coal products manufacturing. Other industries that require the expertise of chemical engineers include pharmaceuticals and medicine manufacturing. 

Because chemical engineers do more work and deal with greater hazardous risks, they’re often paid more than chemists. Chemical engineers are paid $106,260 annually, significantly higher than that of chemists. However, there will be fewer yearly job openings in this field, which means that career advancement opportunities may be more competitive. 

One way to make yourself competitive in the industry is by taking full advantage of cutting-edge research projects, hands-on experience, and internships for practical experience and developing professional skills that are useful in the workplace.

Importantly, you must also pursue a specialization and earn certifications. The BLS states that a bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement to enter the field. However, employers prefer those with more practical experiences and advanced knowledge.

Essential Skills of a Chemical Engineer

Chemical engineers are concerned about things on an industrial scale. They are in charge of products and product processes that comply with regulations and meet various stakeholders’ needs. They are expected to possess technical expertise, project management, compliance, collaboration, problem-solving, and communication skills. 

Chemical Engineering is for you if:

Chemical Engineering is not a great fit for you if:

Key Differences: Chemistry vs Chemical Engineering

Key Differences - Chemistry vs Chemical Engineering - Image
Chemistry Chemical Engineering
Required Skills* Research
* Substance analysis
* Laboratory Product Development
* Leadership Communication 
* Scientific and technical
* Project management
* Knowledge of the law
* Collaboration
* Problem-solving
* Communication
TrainingExtensive laboratory workPractical hands-on opportunities 
Work RequirementGraduate and advanced degrees requiredCertifications and specializations are more valuable  
Focus and ScopeThe science behind productsManufacturing of products
Career Opportunities* Research and development
* Testing laboratories
* Pharmaceuticals
* Environmental agencies
* Chemical manufacturing industries
* Manufacturing
* Petroleum
* Pharmaceuticals
* Environmental engineering agencies 
Work EnvironmentLikely to operate within labsHave a larger representation in industrial settings
Salary and Job OutlookLower pay but more employment opportunities Higher pay but less employment opportunities. 

Chemists and Chemical Engineers are incredibly skilled in their way! Both involve updates and innovations that professionals must keep up with, so you must be committed to lifelong learning to thrive in either! If you fundamentally enjoy Chemistry, become a chemist or a chemical engineer and make your mark in the industry as a highly sought-after professional! 

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