Chemical engineers take several years of intensive college classes before becoming qualified for professional work. Depending on career aspirations, chemical engineering majors generally take four to five years of undergraduate courses, followed by approximately two years of graduate school. A doctorate in chemical engineering is required for research or teaching positions at the university level, says Minnesota’s career, education and job resource iSeek Careers.
Core Undergraduate Classes
Although requirements vary by university, the first one to two years of chemical engineering undergraduate classes involves a series of general education classes, including English, communication and introductory psychology. Most chemical engineering programs require several science and math courses and introductory chemical engineering classes as well. Typical core chemical engineering classes include fluid mechanics, equilibrium thermodynamics, biochemistry and several semesters of chemical engineering laboratories, Stanford University’s chemical engineering website states.
Electives and Specialization
After completing general education requirements, students pursue more intensive chemical engineering classes. They attend lectures and complete lab research. Some students might complete an internship during this period as well to gain real-world job experience in their field. Once they have completed all of the required chemical engineering classes, a bachelor’s degree is awarded. "The College Board" reports that it is not uncommon for students to take five years to complete all of the undergraduate chemical engineering requirements.
Some schools incorporate a graduate degree option into their undergraduate chemical engineering program, which generally adds approximately one year to the undergraduate’s schedule, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. Those pursuing a separate graduate degree might expect to take about two years of graduate-level classes to earn their master’s degree. Graduate students specialize in a subfield in chemical engineering as part of their individualized study plan. Other classes might include chemical reaction engineering, numerical methods in chemical engineering or general transport phenomena, according to Penn State’s graduate chemical engineering classes list.
A doctorate is needed for chemical engineering teaching or research positions. The length of time to earn the advanced degree varies. Cornell University reports a doctoral program generally takes between four and five years to obtain, and research projects reflect individual career aspirations. Typical topics include advanced chemical engineering thermodynamics, chemical kinetics and transport, advanced fluid mechanics and heat transfer and chemical engineering mathematical methods analysis. Many programs require doctoral candidates' assistance with daily operations of the engineering department, such as teaching classes or helping with university research projects.
- iSeek Careers: Chemical Engineers
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Chemical Engineers
- Stanford University: Prospective Students
- Penn State University: Department of Chemical Engineering
- Cornell University: Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering
- Cornell University: Curriculum and Courses
- Purdue University: School of Chemical Engineering: Doctor of Philosophy Program
- The College Board: Major: Chemical Engineering
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