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Why did you become a chemical engineer

  1. Mar 24, 2007 #1

    I'm a last year student in chemical engineering at the KUL and I'm having difficulties finding a job. (sounds ridiculous I know)

    At each interview people ask me why I began my studies as chemical engineer and why I chose chemistry instead of mechanics, electronics, building...

    I can never give a decent answer because I'm not that passionate about it... It's like: I need to work to get money.

    Any tips?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 24, 2007 #2


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    Hi, Katchum. It might be a decent idea to tell them the truth. Engineering doesn't require passion. Since it's a very logical science, the only criterion is that you be good at it. I know that if I were a prospective employer, I'd rather hear the reason that you posted than some BS about your higher motives. But, since I'm not in a hiring situation, it might be best that you wait for others to respond.
  4. Mar 24, 2007 #3


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    I studied chemical engineering because that was a way into a secure job in the pulp and paper industry, which was really booming around here 30-40 years ago. I gave it up after a couple of years, because like you, I found that I didn't have a real passion for the field and it seemed like I was wasting my time and money. As it turns out, a couple of years after college, I got sick of following construction jobs around and I applied for a laborer's position at a local pulp mill. Someone in HR saw that I had studied chemical engineering and they lined me up for an interview for a process chemist position. When I got home after the interview, my wife said "the mill called - they set up a physical and you start Monday". As it turns out, I beat out a candidate with a BS in chemical engineering. BTW, I was honest with the technical director when he asked me why I switched out of chemical engineering, and since it was less than a 1/2 hour drive for me to get back home, he must have made up his mind immediately so that HR would have the paperwork in motion and have a physical set up and have left the message with my wife all in that short period of time.
  5. Mar 24, 2007 #4
    I chose ChE as a vocation in the mid-fifties based on what I thought they could earn. The too highest paid engineering degrees were EE & ChE and I did not like electronics at all. I really enjoyed math and science but math majors only became teachers. So my motivation was money! That is probably not what they want to hear though.
  6. Mar 25, 2007 #5
    If they ask me why, then my answer is mostly that I was broadly interested in science and engineering wasn't too specialised so I could have a broad perspective as I had a global interest for science. (of course that's not true, I like playing the piano much more)

    As for chemical engineering I said it was difficult to choose, but I said I just made a choice. I said I wasn't that good in the numerical, algorithmic aspect of engineering and chemical engineering had a more theoretical background.

    Being honest:

    ..., I don't think that would work out too well. Doing it for the money and because there just aren't many people who are intelligent enough to do this job, so that I have more chance to get the job...

    For my next interview I'm going to try this:

    Why engineering: because I knew I was able to do it and I didn't want to specialize in one particular job, like chemistry or physics... I wanted to have more options. As an engineer you can taste of a broad spectrum of sciences and I can find myself in the coming two years studying for a bachelor degree.

    Why chemical: because I like the more theoretical aspect of science, knowledge interests me more than playing with numbers and solving equations like in mechanics and construction.
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2007
  7. Mar 26, 2007 #6
    I think that is a good approach.
  8. Mar 26, 2007 #7


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    Careful how you phrase that, though. My job as a process chemist required me to do LOTS of modeling and calculations. When you're asked to perform a heat and water balance on something as complex as a pulp mill, you're going to get into some heavy number-crunching. If you are being interviewed by the manager of a mill's tech department, he's going to be looking for someone that can wear a lot of hats. Although he may anticipate a learning curve while you come up to speed on industry-specific and process-specific details that you wouldn't get in school, he's going to want to know that you won't be turned off if he hands you a really tedious math-heavy project.
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