Why did you become a chemical engineer

  1. Hello

    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. Danger

    Danger 9,663
    Gold Member

    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. turbo

    turbo 7,063
    Gold Member

    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. 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. 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. I think that is a good approach.
  8. turbo

    turbo 7,063
    Gold Member

    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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