Chemistry vs. Chem E

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25
Can someone please explain in detail what the difference is between a chemist and a chemical engineer? I have no idea what I want to do with my future so I am considering all options. I was thinking about applying to grad schools for Chem E, just to see what kind of offers I might get. I was reading a lot of schools' websites and most of them said that a Chem E undergraduate degree was not required to apply for the grad program in Chem E. My background is
BS- Chemsitry
BS- Mathematics
Minor- Economics

Would this be an adequate preparation for a grad program in Chem E? I know I would have to probably take an extra semester or so in grad school to get caught up on undergraduate Chem E concepts, but this does not bother me at all. I did very well in courses like Physical chemistry I and II which is more like engineering I am assuming. Please tell me if I have a shot at all at getting into any grad schools for Chem E. Thanks.
 

cronxeh

Gold Member
949
10
Your undergraduate record is perfect for Chem E!

Chem E is all about making profit and your Economics minor will help you. Chem E is also mostly Chemistry + Math so thats another plus for you.

You'll probably have to take Materials Balances first, then Chem Thermo (Physical Chemistry will help ya with this), then Separations, and Reactor engineering, and finally the process dynamics & control with some lab work. Might take at least 2 years worth of undergrad courses. Knowledge is diff eq + linear/nonlinear algebra is important so if you good at that you'll love chem e.
 

Gokul43201

Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
6,987
14
Here's some pointers :

1. While a Master's can be a terminal degree in CE, it isn't usually considered one in Chemistry. So, Chemistry Grad School typically involves getting a PhD.

2. Your background is better suited to getting into a Chemistry program than a CE program, though the latter is by no means out of your reach. Most CE grad programs accept admission applications from students with a background in "Chemical Engineering or related field".To do an MS or PhD in CE, however, you will have to take some undergrad courses to catch up - typically in fluid dynamics, process control and design, transport phenomena and a few others.

3. CE is a very broad field with areas including fluid mechanics, process systems, catalysis and reaction engineering, colloidal/mesoscopic technology, thermodynamics and fuel chemistry, polymer/composite synthesis, and in some deptartments, even including areas in biotechnology or bio-molecular engg.

4. If you're really interested in exploring the CE option, I suggest that you :

(a) Visit the websites of a few CE depts to get a good idea of the coursework, research areas,etc.

http://web.mit.edu/cheme/
http://www.che.gatech.edu/
http://www.che.eng.ohio-state.edu/research/areas.html [Broken]
http://www.chemeng.ucla.edu/

(b) Look at faculty/grad student directories in different schools (especially the ones you like) and send them e-mails asking for their opinion of your qualifications. Usually, a professor, if he/she finds the time, will let you know if he/she thinks you don't stand a chance. Also, if this professor is (or has recently been) on the Graduate Admissions Committee (you might be able to determine this from the website), you will definitely receive an accurate responce, if you get one at all. Most profs are very busy, so expect a reply from only half or less of the people you email.

(c) Move your butt already. Most deadlines for admission in the fall are sometime in Jan or Feb.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
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You shouldn't have much problem getting into a chemical engineering program if you have good grades in your chemistry courses. Though it may be difficult to get into a really good program. I am in a similiar boat although my background is in computer science, which is not as related, and am applying anyway. Though I do have physical and organic under my belt.
 
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" Can someone please explain in detail what the difference is between a chemist and a chemical engineer? "

I would also like some clarification on this. I have applied to Chem E programs at many schools. Some schools seem to use the term interchangeably with Materials Science. And, when I look up Materials Science, it seems to relate very much to work in Chemistry. I guess what i'm asking is if anyone can clarify what the differences in career opportunities/research/etc is for these different programs. As I understand it, Chem E is the science of processes. Materials Science is the science of "materials". And, Chemistry is a degree that is more research focused (ie, finding new drugs, etc). I know i'm probably way off here, so if someone could clear this up that'd be great! I'd like to know what i'm getting into.

Also, If I get my undergraduate in Chem E, how difficult is it to switch over to something else later if I so desire? I don't know if I like Chem E yet, but if I don't seem to get a spark from it, can I easily apply to Master's programs for Chem, or apply to med school?

Thanks!
-A
 
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25
Also, If I get my undergraduate in Chem E, how difficult is it to switch over to something else later if I so desire? I don't know if I like Chem E yet, but if I don't seem to get a spark from it, can I easily apply to Master's programs for Chem, or apply to med school?

From what I understand, it really doesn't matter what your bachelor's is in when you apply for different programs in grad school. You can basically apply for anything. Med school, however, requires 1 year of bio, chem, and physics. There are just certain minimum requirements that some programs want you to meet in order to qualify for graduate study.
 

cronxeh

Gold Member
949
10
remember kids. if you are a Chemical Engineer, you are a highly skilled plumber who does it in fluidized beds :biggrin:
 

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