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Project Engineer, Chemical


Description

It would be hard to imagine a world without gasoline, paper, pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, plastics, synthetic fibers, paint, film or any of the other chemical products we use and demand in our daily lives. Whether it is bettering already existing products or creating new ones, we generally take these inventions of engineering for granted because we have grown up with many of them and for that very reason, they seem like they have always been around. The direction, work and discoveries made by chemical project engineers have had an overwhelming impact on all of our lives.

Applying managerial, scientific and mathematical principles, chemical project engineers direct, coordinate and exercise functional authority for planning, organization, control, integration, and completion of chemical engineering projects within an area of assigned responsibility. They plan and formulate engineering programs and organize project staff according to project requirements. They work as engineers, designing and researching, but also as administrators and managers. They are the engineers who possess people and management skills and deal directly with clients.
Project engineers usually work on several projects at a time, developing new products and improving manufacturing efficiencies. They could specialize in anything from producing hotdogs to bicycle design to a power plant. They usually follow a methodical process and begin with a concept, conduct research, make prototypes and follow through and produce a final product. Project engineers also take part in the procurement of equipment, the establishing of a construction schedule for a new plant, the coordination of the work of other engineers during construction, the evaluation of bids and awarding of contracts and the supervision of plant erection and start-up. They usually work with a team of scientists and engineers as their role is also of an administrative and supervisory nature.

They often meet with manufacturers, lawyers and clients to make sure that design plans are safe and will withstand a number of conditional variables, such as safety. They create engineering plans on computers using computer-aided design (CAD) systems, which simulate realistic three-dimensional models and test and predict possible errors and problems with a mechanism, generating workable solutions. Although most work takes place on computers or in laboratories, project engineers sometimes travel to meetings and factories to supervise and see their work in progress.

Project engineers are required to constantly update their skills and knowledge in order to keep up with technological advancements in this quickly changing field.
 
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  Average Earnings  
Lowest 10% of Earners:
$48,450
 
Median Salary:
n/a
 
Highest 10% of Earners:
$107,520

  Interests and Skills  
Project engineers are analytical, creative and innovative thinkers with excellent problem solving skills. They have a natural affinity and aptitude for mathematics and science and can often visualize complex processes and design on computers. They possess excellent communication skills, both written and oral, and have the ability to work well in teams with people from various disciplines and backgrounds. They are also good leaders, can delegate duties and have the ability to multi-task and work on more than one project at a time.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Design, maintain and manage chemical, biochemical, pharmaceutical and materials processing plants
  • Design and operate quality and environmental control systems
  • Troubleshoot problems and risks in industrial processing and manufacturing plants
  • Ensure efficient, safe and environmentally responsible plant operations
  • Supervise technologists, technicians and other engineers engaged in support activities
  • Review detailed schedules and manage formal onsite reviews
  • Work with the project manager to track technical, schedule and cost performance measures to assess project performance against the contract
  • Advise management regarding the layout of industrial plants and the installation and sizing of equipment
  • Determine the most effective processes for commercial production
  • Conduct economic evaluations of projects to find the most cost-effective options
  • Design and develop new and better processes and equipment for converting raw materials into products using computers to simulate, model and control such processes
  • A typical day for a project engineer will take place in an office, industrial plant or laboratory environment. They usually work standard workweeks, unless a deadline must be met or an emergency occurs, requiring the expertise of a chemical project engineer. Engineers who work in production may come in contact with hazardous machinery and chemicals on a regular basis.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Most chemical project engineers work in businesses known collectively as the chemical process industries (CPI), which include the chemical, oil and gas, food and beverage, textile and agricultural chemical industries, to name a few. They work alongside scientists, mathematicians, technicians and administrators.
  • Project engineers generally work wherever there is a process of chemical conversion, for example in pulp and paper manufacturing, petroleum refining and oil sands extraction. Some are employed by instrumentation and control companies, engineering design companies, pharmaceutical companies, construction companies, biotechnology firms and environmental companies and agencies.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Advancement as a project engineer is quite boundless. Since the field of chemical engineering is expanding, there will be many jobs in the new technological areas such as biomedicine, genetic engineering and other biotechnologies. Engineers can move to senior project management positions and supervise junior engineers. Some become scientists or concentrate their work entirely on research and development. Other project engineers could use their administrative skills and pursue careers in law, business, publishing, education or medicine. Eventually, some become chief executive officers (CEO) or heads of other organizations.
 

  Educational Paths  
While still in high school, if this is the career path you are interested in taking, make sure you take courses in mathematics and chemistry. Most university and college programs will require these subject areas as prerequisites.

Project engineers require a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering or in a related engineering field. Then, they must also become registered as a professional engineer (PEng) within an association of professional engineers to secure employment and practice in their field. Some engineers also get master's degrees in a specific area, such as genetic engineering.
 

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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