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As a chemical engineer, you gather data and oversee operations at a plant or job site, though much of your work may take place in an office environment.
While your formal title is ‘chemical engineer’, you’re often referred to as a ‘universal engineer’ because you need to master a broad range of scientific and technical knowledge, in addition to excellent hands-on lab skills. You're highly persistent, curious, and able to solve complex problems. Because you have a great impact on company processes and safety, you must be able to communicate with others clearly and concisely, both verbally and in writing.
You work full-time hours, usually in a lab or office environment. Depending on the project you're working on, you may also work in a plant or another industrial setting. As a chemical engineer, you may work with and supervise others, such as a quality control team. You can choose to specialize in a specific area of chemical engineering such as process control, pollution control or fermentation.
Chemical engineers are most in demand in Canada's western provinces, where the oil and gas industries rule. This demand is reflected in the extremely competitive chemical engineer salaries offered in cities such as Calgary, Vancouver and Edmonton. In these cities, skilled chemical engineers can command salaries into the $80,000 range.
In contrast, provinces to the east, such as Ontario and Quebec, offer much wider salary ranges, starting in the $50,000 to $60,000 range. As is the case with most engineering fields, the salaries in Quebec are by far the least competitive.
You play a vital role in your workplace. As a chemical engineer, you ensure that your working environment and any products your employer makes are safe and efficient. Some of your daily tasks will include:
Chemical engineer jobs are mostly found in industrial settings. You will likely work in an industry that manufactures goods. Some examples of industries that rely on chemical engineers include: pharmaceuticals and healthcare, retail and consumer goods, food processing, biotechnology, energy, oil and gas, and construction, among others.
Due to your broad range of knowledge and precise technical skill, you're in demand across Canada. In particular, there is demand for your skills in Canada's western provinces. The oil and gas industries drive the majority of the demand, so oil-rich provinces like Alberta and British Columbia are home to the largest array of job opportunities.
Successful chemical engineers are experts in chemistry and scientific processes. You must be equally comfortable working with theoretical processes as you are in a laboratory setting. In addition to your technical competencies, employers will also be looking for:
Chemical engineers must have an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering or a related engineering discipline. Depending on the requirements of the chemical engineering job, a Masters or PhD may also be required. For entry level chemical engineering jobs, employers often prefer graduates who have completed a co-op placement or have on the job experience.
To land a chemical engineer job, you'll also need to be licensed by a provincial or territorial association. After you graduate from an accredited chemical engineering program, you will need to complete 3-4 years of on the job experience and pass a professional licensing exam.
Due to the intense training and high level of skill required, chemical engineers are among the most prestigious and best-paid engineers in Canada. Since you're already near the top of the pay scale in the engineering industry, most areas of opportunity to advance involve taking on supervisory and management roles.
With your broad range of skills, you can also transition into other related industries and fields such as science, sales, and marketing.