California Occupational Guides

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Summary Guide for

Chemical Engineers in California

May also be called: Chemical Research Engineers; Process Engineers; Refinery Engineers; Refinery Process Engineers; Research Chemical Engineers

What Would I Do?

Chemical Engineers* apply the principles of chemistry and related sciences to solve problems involving the production or use of chemicals and biochemicals. They design equipment and processes for large-scale chemical manufacturing, plan and test methods of manufacturing products and treating byproducts, and supervise production.

Green Economy: Chemical Engineers will play an important role in the emerging green economy. Some will assist with the research and design of energy-efficient systems, such as fuel cells and batteries. Others will work within the renewable energy generation sector developing, designing, and testing products using energy sources, such as solar and biomass. Some Engineers will work with traditional non-renewable sources (oil, coal, gas, and nuclear) that are undergoing green technological changes. Engineers are also involved in environmental protection, such as remediation, air quality, and climate change adaptation.

Most Engineers work in office buildings, laboratories, or industrial plants. Others may spend time outdoors at construction sites, oil and gas facilities, or production sites, where they monitor or direct operations or solve on-site problems. Chemical Engineers may need to be trained in safety procedures and wear personal protective equipment, such as safety glasses, gloves, protective clothing and footwear, and respiratory masks.

Many Chemical Engineers work a standard 40-hour week. At times, deadlines or design standards may require Engineers to work longer hours. Some Engineers travel extensively to chemical plants or other work sites in the United States and abroad.

*This product was partially funded by a grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment & Training Administration. The information contained in this product was created by a grantee organization and does not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Labor. All references to non-governmental companies or organizations, their services, products, or resources are offered for informational purposes and should not be construed as an endorsement by the Department of Labor. This product is copyrighted by the institution that created it and is intended for individual organizational, non-commercial use only.

Will This Job Fit Me?

Chemical Engineering may appeal to those who enjoy working with ideas and activities that require an extensive amount of thinking and include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and materials such as chemicals, metals, and pharmaceuticals.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

The median wage in 2017 for Chemical Engineers in California was $100,758 annually, or $48.44 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

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Annual Wages for 2017Low
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Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2017 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
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Most Engineers receive a good benefit package including health and life insurance, vacation, sick leave, and a retirement plan.

What is the Job Outlook?

With the increased focus on the green economy and environmentally sustainable business practices, it is expected that there may be increased opportunities for Chemical Engineers. The strongest demand will mostly likely be in the areas of research and development in biofuel technology, biotechnology, energy efficiency, nanotechnology, and pharmaceuticals. However, like many occupations, employment is sensitive to fluctuations in the economy.

How Do I Qualify?

A bachelor's degree in chemical engineering is generally the minimum educational level that employers will consider for a position as a Chemical Engineer. Most engineering programs involve a concentration of study in an engineering specialty, along with courses in mathematics, physical and life sciences, and hands-on laboratory classes. In addition to core classes, which often reflect chemical engineering basics, coursework may also include a focus on corrosion engineering, microelectronic processing, pollution prevention, air pollution, and environmental compliance. Advanced computer skills are also vital to the Engineer's education.

Licensing by the California Board for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors is required for Chemical Engineers who approve engineering documents or whose work affects the public welfare.

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Applicants can also find employment opportunities through placement offices at colleges and universities. Newspaper classified ads and the Internet provide additional sources for job listings. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

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