Income and benefits
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for chemical engineers in the United States was $108,540 in 2020. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $68,430 and the highest 10 percent earned more than $168,960. The top paying industry was petroleum and coal products manufacturing, where the median annual salary was $123,360. This is followed by engineering services ($111,090), research and development in the physical, engineering and life sciences ($106,500), pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing ($101,780) and then finally, the wholesale trade ($99,490).
Autonomy and Flexibility
Chemical engineers are likely to have high levels autonomy as they are often very senior members in projects and, therefore, will have control over many decisions. As chemical engineers progress through their careers, their autonomy will increase further as they gather more experience, knowledge and responsibility.
On the other hand, flexibility for chemical engineers is likely to be low. Often, chemical engineers will have to stick to project deadlines and will have little control over the hours they work.
Locations and commute
According to Zippia, the best states to be a chemical engineer, based on average annual salary and number of job opportunities, are:
- Delaware, where the average annual salary is $95,377
- New Mexico, where the average annual salary is $103,281
- Texas, where the average annual salary is $106,258
- Virginia, where the average annual salary is $88,116
- Maryland, where the average annual salary is $91,589
The worst states to be a chemical engineer, according to Zippia, are Rhode Island, South Dakota, Hawaii, Wyoming and Montana.
The largest employer of chemical engineers in the United States was the research and development in the physical, engineering and life sciences industry, which hired 10% of all chemical engineers in 2019. 9% of chemical engineers were employed by engineering services, 5% by petroleum and coal products manufacturing, 4% by wholesale trade and a final 3% by pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing.
Chemical engineers tend to work mostly in laboratories, although they may spend time at industrial plants, refineries and other locations. Chemical engineers will work with those who design other systems, with technicians and with mechanics and, as a result, they must be able to work well as part of a team.
Chemical engineers can be exposed to health and safety hazards when handling certain chemicals and plant equipment. However, such exposure can be avoided by following proper procedures.