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Engineering Chemistry or Chemical Engineering?

  1. May 16, 2010 #1
    I wanted to know what the real difference is between a major in chemistry and a major in chemical engineering. I know that Chemical Engineering would be focusing mostly on synthesis and creating new materials while a Chemistry major would be much more broad and could be analytical as well as creative instead of just creative with chemical engineering. Is material science related to these too or is that something completely different?

    Most answers I get to these questions are extremely vague and i really want to understand this
  2. jcsd
  3. May 18, 2010 #2
    Chemists do things generally on a bench scale, working up some reaction to the 1 gram of reactant range could be a big deal. Or, they spend alot of time in front of an instrument running analytical tests for things after doing several hours or a few days of prep to get everything ready for the instrument.

    A Chemical engineer is going to be concerned about things on an industrial scale. Ramping up drug production, running a paper mill, things like that.

    Engineers in general will manage projects. As a BS or even MS Chemist, you will be the one being managed unless you are the rare consultant or sales person who is given more freedom.

    Engineers will have a better understanding of math and thermodynamics. Chemists will know more about the actual guts of chemistry: inorganic, organic, analytical and physical.

    You can be creative in either discipline. My advice is don't be a chemistry major unless you plan on getting a PhD or going on to a professional school. Having an ABET accreditted engineering degree opens alot of doors that a straight chemistry degree won't. Where I work, chemists make minimum 20K less per year than the engineers and get treated like the hired help.
  4. May 18, 2010 #3
    Thanks so much!
    that helps a lot and I think that I will continue studying (im only a sophmore in High school) chemistry before I make a decision
  5. May 18, 2010 #4
    Depends on what you want to do. As a chemistry major, your focus could be synthesis as well. A chemistry major can branch into analytical, organic, inorganic, biochem, physical chem, etc. depending on what you find an interest in. A chemical engineer is an engineer first and a chemist second but has the advantage of being both. If you do go chemistry, make sure you get an ACS degree.
  6. May 19, 2010 #5
    Good luck with your studies. I'd try as many different things as you can while you have the chance. Maybe you could check with local schools where you live and see what the difference between a Chemistry and Chem E. major is; they probably have course lists.
  7. May 19, 2010 #6
    Once I went to a Chemistry Training for High-school students and they said something like "If you really like chemistry, you shouldn't do Chemical Engineering. The amount of chemistry a Chemical Engineer studies is significantly less than what a Chemist learns. However, a Chemical Engineer will have lessons on management, which are usually lacking in most Chemistry courses".

    In essence, a Chemist will work with discovering new things, new reactions and techniques (some of them also take a teaching career). A Chemical Engineer will be more concerned with management and how to keep a industry working properly. Also, the salary is very different (at least where I live).
    It might be different in the country you study - as someone has previously said, get the course lists. It's also a good idea to talk with other students who have already finished the course in the university you want.
  8. May 23, 2010 #7
    I would also like to point out that it is relatively easy for a Chemical Engineering student to take additional courses in Chemistry, whereas the opposite may not necessarily be true.
  9. Jun 4, 2011 #8
    I was an undergraduate chemistry major and later received advanced degrees in chemical engineering. My opinion of the differences .... For a BS:
    - a chemist takes 4 years of chemistry and a couple of years of math
    - a chemical engineer takes a couple of years of chemistry and a lot of math
    With a BS, the chemist has exposure to a lot of different areas of chemistry, but to become truly an expert and potentially lead a group ... they probably need to have an advanced degree. The BS chemical engineer has less exposure to chemistry, but a lot more exposure to heat and mass transfer and reaction modeling. Knowledge of these topics is used (as said above) in scaling up processes. That is, how do you go from something made in a test tube (or other small scale) to something done at large scale (giant reactor).
  10. Jun 4, 2011 #9
    A year late to the party km. I bet you don't regret being an engineer.
  11. Mar 23, 2012 #10
    I'm a little confused about this thread. I'm a Chemical and Biological Engineering student in my senior year. An earlier post said chemistry majors do more analytical, organic, inorganic, and P-chem than we do, but I disagree. At least at my university the ChemE department requires me to take applied data analysis, organic chemistry 1 & 2, inorganic chemistry (this one is actually for my chemistry minor, but most ChemE's take it as a technical elective), biochem 1 & 2, and physical chemistry. I have not had to take any sort of management course. I think it's most important to note that the industrial scale techniques we learn are completely reliant on the classes some have been suggesting we don't have to take. We can't model a distillation column or a plug flow reactor without knowing the actual chemistry that makes them work. I don't know what it's like at the universities others have been suggesting, but where I go ChemE IS chemistry with the additional engineering courses tagged on.
  12. Apr 22, 2013 #11
    snobby attitude

    Talk about self absorbed snobs at your work place. A chemistry major requires just as much hard work as a Chem E major.
  13. Apr 22, 2013 #12
    Being a chemistry major does require hard work as does being a talented Chemist. The problem is Chemists are dealing with smaller scale issues compared to Engineers. Plus, anyone can be called a Chemist no matter what their background is...you just need a little science background. It doesn't work that way for Engineers, especially those with a PE.

    TLDR: Old Post but never stop with a BS Chem, Chem E is better if you don't want to go on in school or work in a lab all day.
  14. Apr 25, 2013 #13
    I disagree that anyone can be called a chemist. To be called a "chemist" one needs at least a B.S. chemistry degree from an accredited college.
  15. Apr 25, 2013 #14
    Good for you. I worked with plenty of people with degrees in Biology, Animal Sciences, etc. that were still called 'Chemists' because they took Gen and O Chem and could run a test. This won't be the case with engineers.
  16. Apr 26, 2013 #15
    I'd call them chemical technicians at best.
    It's good that you think so highly of yourself, engineer.
  17. Jan 27, 2015 #16
    As a Chem E student, I largely agree that Chem E does involve alot of chemistry, you will not have the opportunity to study chemistry in as great of depths as a pure chemistry degree. The biggest difference I've noticed is the versitility of a chemical engineering degree. There are so many well paying jobs in various fields for a Chem E. One thing to add is that the research opportunities are there for you if you look for them! Chem E research does involve a good amount of chemistry. I also have always loved physics and mathematics and this subject truely blends each subject to the perfect degree! After I finished my lower division work, I immediatly knew I wanted to study fuels and energy. My pool of knowledge is immense and I cannot wait to apply what I learn in industry and research. I went into this because 1. I love chemistry, 2. I love math and physics as well, and 3. I wanted to have a secure and stable future. It really boils down to how much schooling you want. Initially I did want to go to graduate school, but as of now, my plans are to work in an energy industry for a year then consider going back for graduate school (Possibly to study nuclear energy)!

    Here is a list of some of the relevant topics I will have completed by my graduation(these would have been what I was looking for when I came to my decision!):
    • CS: Matlab
    • Math: Calculus, Multivariable Calculus, Vector Calculus, Linear Algebra, Differential Equations, basic and advanced statistics (from a mathematical perspective)
    • CENG: Process Modeling and Comp., Thermodynamics, Reaction Engineering, Fluid Mechanics, Heat transfer, Mass Transfer, Dynamics and Control, Process and Design, Seperation Process, Process Labs, Lab Technique
    • Chem: Basic Analytic Chemistry, Organic Chemistry Series, Inorganic Chemistry (No chem labs past basic chem :/ )
    • Physics: Mechanics, E/M, Waves Optics and Thermodynamics, Labs
    • Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering: Energy Systems, Renewable Energy, Nuclear Energy
  18. Apr 21, 2015 #17
    I'm not in chemistry neither chemE but at my university, chemistry majors have to take calc1, calc2, multivariable calc, linear algebra and ODEs which only make a difference of one math class with chemE (they take calc4).
  19. Feb 10, 2016 #18
    I work in the paper industry, and at my work we have several production engineers who have pure science degrees such as biology, physics, and yes, chemistry. In fact, two of the best engineers at my mill have biology degrees.

    So those "chemists" you're talking about who have biology degrees are as much chemists as some of the engineers here are engineers even though they don't technically have engineering degrees.

    Furthermore, we do have quite a bit of ChE's here as well, and no, they do not take that much chemistry. If a ChE has taken a lot of chemistry then either he came from a university that upped their standards, or he decided to take it upon himself to take more chemistry than what was required.

    Quite a number of chemistry majors are trying to get into some sort of medical field. So they tend to focus their electives on the biological sciences to fulfill the prerequisites for med school. However, it is entirely possible that a Chem major could decide to focus his electives on math and physics. And at this point, the only thing lacking would be dedicated engineering courses. So how close a ChE is to a chemist, or how close a chemist is to a ChE depends on the individual and what they decided to do.

    I can tell you guys now that we have ChE's from all over the U.S., and almost without exception, the required chemistry courses are (based on semester systems):

    Gen Chem 1 & 2
    Organic 1
    P. Chem 1
    Biochem 1

    And that's it. And many people mistake general chemistry as inorganic when the two classes are as different as gen Chem is from organic Chem.

    On the flip side, chemistry majors are typically only required to go up to calc 2 and principles of physics 1 and 2.
  20. Apr 13, 2016 #19
    hello there. Here is Australia, chemist as well as chemical engineering undergraduates both have to take all the same math as well as the same chemistry during the first year and second years. The difference lies in the 3rd and 4th. Chemist go on to learn about Molecular orbital theory and etc. Chemical engineering go to learn plant design and how to expand a process massively. I am studying both at the moment. Hopefully i will graduate as a chemist and chemical engineer.
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