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Study a graduate program in chemical engineering

What will I study in a graduate chemical engineering program?

Chemical Engineering is basically the study of materials and how to change them to meet the needs (or wants) of society.
It is the branch of engineering that applies the physical sciences (e.g., chemistry and physics) and/or life sciences (e.g., biology, microbiology and biochemistry) together with mathematics and economics to processes that convert raw materials or chemicals into more useful or valuable forms.

A typical chemical engineering postgraduate course will cover a wide range of specialisations, such as pharmaceuticals, food, petrochemicals and the environment. It is a chance for you to choose your specialisation to eventually move into that area to work.
As well as lectures and seminars, courses are likely to include lots of practical work, both in labs and using computer simulations. In some cases students may also complete a work-based placement.

Length of program

Depending on which country you study in, Engineering graduate programs will vary in length. Here are some examples of country and length:
  • UK- 1-3 years
  • US – 1-2 years
  • China – 2-3 years
  • Canada – 1-4 years
Many Masters programs lead straight into PhDs, which will prolong your study by normally at least a further two years.

Entry requirements

You will need a strong base knowledge of the physical and/or life sciences and maths to successfully complete a chemical engineering postgraduate program, preferably dating back to A level.

Furthermore, it will almost always be necessary to have completed a relevant undergraduate course with at least a 2:2 honours – so either an engineering undergraduate course, or one concerning maths or the life/physical sciences.

It will also be beneficial to you, if not mandatory, if you have completed some relevant professional work experience in the chemical engineering field.

If you choose to study in a country with a different first language to your own, you may need to take a language course/test before admitted.

Career development

The majority of chemical engineers are employed in manufacturing and refining industries, where they are involved in the design and implementation of systems to mass produce materials or products.

As well as monitoring safety and quality issues, this also means ensuring maximum efficiency and profitability. Those with an aptitude for leadership may move up to become plant managers or company executives.

Apart from 'traditional' fields, opportunities can also include employment in fields such as:
  • Financial
  • Legal
  • Environmental
  • Marketing
  • Sales
After a period of work in the sector, usually at least four years, chemical engineers can apply to the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) for official Chartered status – a mark of professional competence.

Fees and funding

The cost of a graduate chemical engineering program varies widely, depending on the country, the institution and the course. Furthermore, you may have to pay higher fees as an international student.

Here are some examples of countries and how much their average graduate chemical engineering program will cost you:
  • UK - £5,000 - £16,000 (national or international)
  • USA - $20,000 - $35,000
  • China – RMB 14,000 – 36,000
  • Canada - $17,000 – $25,000

What to do next

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