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The skills needed for chemical engineer employment can be fine-tuned as early as the high school years. Some people know from a young age what type of career path they would like to follow — and a few of those people actually follow through with those early notions. It is worth exploring what kind of skills and classes can be taken in high school are geared for chemical engineering. For example, mathematics, chemistry, physics, computer science, and biology courses will always be helpful.
The next stage for someone on the path to chemical engineer employment is a college education. A bachelor's degree in chemical engineering is the minimum required by most employers. It is not unusual for an employer to want an employee to possess a master’s degree or even a doctorate degree in order to be hired for chemical engineering employment, specifically if the position is based in research or teaching at the university level.
In choosing a chemical engineering program, it is best to find a program that is approved and accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. While some programs last four to five years at the undergraduate level, graduate programs are much lengthier. A master’s degree takes two years to complete, while a doctorate degree can take anywhere from four to six years to finish.
Beyond many years of formal education, there are other skills that are valuable for finding chemical engineer employment. For example, some personal qualities are helpful for a successful career. These include honesty, objectivity, accuracy, and perseverance. It is also useful to have an inquisitive mind and to be creative and open-minded. Lastly, a person looking for work as a chemical engineer must have a strong ability to solve complex problems.
Other skills that are helpful for chemical engineering include leadership skills, the ability to work well with others, and the ability to collaborate with people in unrelated disciplines. It is useful to be able to communicate with people from different backgrounds and with those who speak a foreign language as their primary language. The inability to communicate effectively could be devastating for some chemical engineers.
Depending on where chemical engineer employment is located, other skills may also be practical. For example, travel to plants around the country or abroad may be mandatory. Thus, the engineer must be comfortable traveling to new places. Some chemical engineers work with toxic chemicals; consequently, they must know the guidelines and regulations for those chemicals. In addition, they must be able to work quickly and steadily in the case of a chemical spill or other emergency.