what is a process engineer?

As a process engineer, you are responsible for developing, implementing, controlling and optimising industrial processes. You design the processes that allow the conversion of raw materials into finished products. You implement and optimise the processes to ensure the manufacturing process has minimal waste. 

Process engineering is a complex specialism since you create and develop the product specification and match them to equipment requirements. You also implement manufacturing strategies and monitor them to ensure maximum productivity. The processes you supervise range from simple machining processes like CNC machining plastics to biochemical reactions.

As a process engineer, you work in every manufacturing industry sector. While your primary role is developing new production plant processes, you also analyse and upgrade existing manufacturing facilities. Your job is to modify the equipment or the manufacturing processes to improve productivity. Your input is required in research and development, production, operations and management.

You could work in the chemical, pharmaceutical and biochemical industries as a process engineer. Some process engineers work in food and consumer goods manufacturing plants. The role requires extensive mathematical skills for calculating output. Analytical and critical thinking skills are also valuable for optimising manufacturing processes.

Would working as a process engineer suit your mathematical skills and interest in machines? Then read on to find out what competencies and qualifications you need to thrive in a process engineer role.

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average process engineer salary

According to our Salary Guide, entry-level salaries for process engineer jobs tend to be between $60,000 and $75,000 in most markets across Canada. That said, the average process engineer salary in Canada hovers around $80,000. With the right education, skills and experience, you will find you can make as high as six figures.

As is the case with many engineering jobs, the demand for process engineers in highest in cities with a strong manufacturing presence. Calgary, Toronto and Vancouver all offer a wealth of opportunities and competitive salaries to match.

factors that affect the salary of a process engineer

The compensation package of a process engineer depends on educational qualifications and the complexity of responsibilities. The earnings of process engineers with degrees are higher than those with apprenticeships. Additional certifications significantly improve your salary prospects since you can negotiate a higher compensation package.

The industry you work in also influences your earnings. Some business sectors involve more complex duties and pay higher salaries. For instance, working as a process engineer in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries requires a high level of expertise and pays more. Business sectors like consumer goods manufacturing may pay less due to lower requirements for expertise.

Your skill level and competency could increase or reduce your earnings as a process engineer. In an entry-level position, you have minimal experience. However, as you gain experience and competency, you can perform complex duties and earn more.

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types of process engineers

Process engineering has varied specialisations focused on specific areas. Some of the types of process engineers include:

  • process production engineers: as a process production engineer, you streamline and improve existing manufacturing processes. You optimise manufacturing systems to save money on production costs.
  • project and process engineers: as a project and process engineer, you supervise a group of engineers on a large-scale project. You combine the responsibilities of a process engineer and a project manager to ensure the whole manufacturing process runs smoothly.
  • lean process engineers: your job is to implement a lean manufacturing methodology. That means you focus on reducing waste and improving the manufacturing processes.
  • process automation engineers: as a process engineer, you develop complex automation systems for manufacturing. The automation programmes streamline manufacturing processes.
process engineers
process engineers

working as a process engineer

Working as a process engineer allows you to make a real impact in people's lives since you develop processes that influence the production and manufacture of goods. Let's explore a process engineer's duties, specific tasks, work environment and schedules.


process engineer skills and education

A process engineer requires the following educational qualifications:

  • Bachelor's Degree: A bachelor's degree in a relevant engineering discipline is usually the minimum educational requirement. Chemical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Industrial Engineering, or a related field could be suitable choices. 
  • Co-op or Internship: Many engineering programs offer co-op or internship opportunities, which allow you to gain practical experience in real-world engineering environments.
  • Master's Degree: While not always required, having a master's degree (MEng or MSc) can give you a competitive edge in the job market, especially if you're interested in more specialized or research-oriented roles.
  • As engineering is a regulated field in Canada, you must also be licensed in the province or territory you're working in. In most provinces, this is a P.Eng. To obtain it you must complete an undergraduate degree in your field of choice, complete several years of on-the-job work and pass an official licensing exam.

skills and competencies

Some of the skills that are useful in a process engineer role include:

  • mathematical skills: as a process engineer, you require extensive mathematical abilities when calibrating equipment. Your maths skills are also useful for gathering data and calculating optimal output for the manufacturing processes.
  • analytical skills: manufacturing systems and processes require constant reviewing to meet the desired standards. As a process engineer, you rely on your analytical skills to evaluate industrial processes and ensure optimisation. Analytical skills help you identify flaws and risks that could arise.
  • familiarity with machinery: as a process engineer, you oversee the use of large and complex equipment daily. Therefore, familiarity with the functions of various machinery simplifies your tasks.


FAQs about working as a process engineer


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