Did you become a chemical engineer for the money?

  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

I've posted questions on other forums asking people why they became engineers, and the majority of people claimed they did it because of a passion for building things, interested in how things work, etc.

However, when doing a search on this forum, I stumbled upon this thread:

https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=162297

Where several chemical engineers claimed they pursued the career for financial reasons. I suppose chemical engineering isn't similar to other engineering disciplines since you're more focused on chemical reactions instead of building things, so the passion for learning how things work is non-existent here.

Anywho, why'd you become a chemical engineer? Money, passion, some other reason?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
SteamKing
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
12,798
1,666
Yeah, you deal with industrial quantities of chemicals, some of which are dangerous and/or explosive if not handled correctly, so you put in charge of supervising this potential mayhem someone whose 'passion for learning how things work is non-existent.'

Chemical engineers not only have to be familiar with handling a multitude of different chemicals and understanding various chemical reactions, but often they must design industrial processes which utilize this material. It is true that chemical engineering as a profession can be financially rewarding. Undoubtedly, there are people who enter various engineering fields because the financial benefits are attractive. I'm sure that people enter other professions because these positions are more remunerative than being a fry cook. Assuming that a majority select an engineering profession solely for financial reward ignores the fact that other professions, or even some trades, could provide an equivalent standard of living with a lot less preparation, study, and training.
 
  • #3
20,145
4,215
I've been a chemical engineer throughout my career, and I've loved it. I've often said that I would do this stuff for free. Reaction kinetics and reactor design are a big area in chemical engineering. However, it is not the only area. Another major area is the application of physical chemistry and thermodynamics to design and operate equipment to purify the products of the chemical reactions (separation processes). Also, the temperature of the materials involved in the process needs to be controlled and changed, and this involves heat transfer equipment. We also need to design and operate pumps and compressors for moving the materials through the process. The main job of chemical engineers is the design, operation, and improvement of process equipment for making the desired chemicals: distillation towers, heat exchangers, absorbers, chemical reactors, cooling towers, pumps, compressors, ion exchange columns, dryers, granular beds, extruders, piping.

chet
 
  • #4
SteamKing
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
12,798
1,666
I always thought ChEs covered a lot of mechanical subjects, but I wasn't sure.

OP has been trolling around with this question before in another PF forum.
 
  • #5
20,145
4,215
I always thought ChEs covered a lot of mechanical subjects, but I wasn't sure.

OP has been trolling around with this question before in another PF forum.
Hi SteamKing,

I'm guessing that you are a chemical engineer also, so you are already aware that ChEs cover a lot of mechanical subjects also. I just wanted to keep my response to the OP focused on the main areas. Our training as ChEs qualifies us to work on problems in solid mechanics, fluid mechanics, polymer processing (rheology), hydrology and groundwater, heat transfer (besides heat exchangers), atmospheric science, etc. I've worked in all these areas during my career, in addition to chemical process modeling. All of it has been great fun.

Chet
 
  • #6
SteamKing
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
12,798
1,666
Sorry, not a ChE, but my father started to study ChE before he switched to Industrial Engineering. I still have his Perry's Handbook (more like an olive drab doorstop) from a million years ago, though, and some of his other college texts.

Just didn't like the OP's hasty generalizations about chemical engineers from this post and about other engineers from another similar thread he started recently. I'm actually a naval architect and marine engineer, so our stuff not only has to work, but it must float as well.
 
  • #7
20,145
4,215
Sorry, not a ChE, but my father started to study ChE before he switched to Industrial Engineering. I still have his Perry's Handbook (more like an olive drab doorstop) from a million years ago, though, and some of his other college texts.

Just didn't like the OP's hasty generalizations about chemical engineers from this post and about other engineers from another similar thread he started recently. I'm actually a naval architect and marine engineer, so our stuff not only has to work, but it must float as well.
Interesting. When my daughter Diane got her PhD in ChE, I gave her my old olive drab Perry's Handbook from 1962 as part of her graduation gift.

Chet
 
  • #8
turbo
Gold Member
3,077
45
I started studying Chem E because there were so many pulp and paper mills around in Maine in the 1960s. Not for the money, but for stability and the chance to stay in the state. Other people will have different motivations. I switched majors after I discovered that I wasn't that keen on Chem E, and paradoxically ended up in the pulp and paper industry doing research and survey work without a degree in that field. It all worked out.

Good luck.
 
  • #9
41
5
I started studying Chem E because there were so many pulp and paper mills around in Maine in the 1960s. Not for the money, but for stability and the chance to stay in the state. Other people will have different motivations. I switched majors after I discovered that I wasn't that keen on Chem E, and paradoxically ended up in the pulp and paper industry doing research and survey work without a degree in that field. It all worked out.

Good luck.
If you don't mind me asking, what did you get your degree in and how exactly did you end up working in that particular field upon graduating?
 

Related Threads on Did you become a chemical engineer for the money?

Replies
6
Views
45K
Replies
1
Views
2K
Replies
2
Views
27K
Replies
10
Views
15K
  • Last Post
Replies
1
Views
4K
  • Last Post
Replies
8
Views
5K
  • Last Post
Replies
4
Views
12K
  • Last Post
Replies
3
Views
1K
  • Last Post
Replies
2
Views
8K
Replies
15
Views
84K
Top