Chem eng: hot or not?

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Main Question or Discussion Point

I'm a chemical engineering undergraduate studying in Canada right now. I'm not too sure what my future looks like, so I'd like to have some opinions on whether it's a good engineering discipline to stick with.

1. I'm interested in a career in R&D, but I hear that you need at least a PhD. I'm willing to get a master's, but a PhD is a huge commitment on time and foregone salary. Will I be able to do research with just a master's and still make at least the same money as BS engineers doing non-R&D, but technical work? If so, will I be at a disadvantage if the BS engineer moves on to say, a project manager?

2. I'm interested in working in the biotech sector, but isn't most of it R&D? I'd be willing to move to the States (since Canada pales in comparison to the US), but what non-R&D opportunities are available in Canada besides manufacturing of pharmaceuticals and other biochemicals?

3. Besides biotech and the oil fields in Alberta, what are some other hot areas?

I hope my questions tailored specifically to the Canadian economy doesn't prove to be a hindrance...
 
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  • #2
I've been a practising Chem Eng for 30 odd years moving from the food industry (3 months) to the petrochem industry (7 years) and ending up in the offshore gas industry in the UK (how did I get there?).
Apart from the food industy, I was very happy and was always challenged by the work I did.
You must remember that Chem Eng is not about actually doing but how you manage change and although what you are learning at the moment is very practical it is only the first footstep on the ladder. you can apply everything you have learnt to almost any area of human activity.
30 years ago I wanted to get into sewage disposal (my graduate thesis was on mass transfer in three phase fluidised beds) but it did'nt work out. I ended up in commercial and regulatory management.
I've followed the path of least resistance - a well known Chem Eng principle.
I'm now retired and am teaching English in a Chinese university of finance and economics, but have had a very happy anf fulfilling life.
I hope this helps, it's a very confusing time. I can't answer you specific questions, I don't know enough about the Canadian economy.
My suggestion to you is to take the first, probably most awful, job you are offered, keep an open mind and apply for every job that you see in the technical press. And remember that Chem Eng is the Queen of all engineering.
 

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