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Studying Chemical Engineering in the UK

Do you find chemistry exciting? Would you like to continue exploring the opportunities that it presents? If so, then Chemical Engineering could be the career for you.

Chemical Engineers are employed around the globe in a world-class, largely graduate, profession. As a career Chemical Engineering provides new and exciting opportunities for individual enterprise and career flexibility with rapid progress to responsible and financially rewarding jobs.

Chemical Engineers are found in a wide range of industries from chemicals to energy, food and drink, pharmaceuticals and health care. They are at the forefront of tomorrow’s scientific and technological development, tackling some of the world’s most urgent problems.

They develop and create products that modern society depends on such as food and drink, fuels, artificial fibres, pharmaceuticals, plastics and toiletries. They also help to sustain our modern society by managing natural resources, recycling materials and protecting the environment.

Some Chemical Engineers design processes and solve problems using computing skills and specialist knowledge of reactions, separations, heat transfer, fluid flow, control and economics.

Others lead teams of experts from a range of disciplines while others may be involved in managing installations and directing plant operations. The Chemical Engineers’ general expertise is also used in management, marketing, information technology, business or financial planning.

Chemical Engineers may be found managing processes on a huge scale perhaps in a plant producing vast amounts of bulk chemicals. Equally, they are found producing small quantities of a product, such as pure, high quality vaccines.

The products of Chemical Engineering are found in every shop, office, factory and home in the world. Many of the companies employing Chemical Engineers are names which are instantly recognisable, such as Cadbury Schweppes, SmithKline Beecham, Proctor and Gamble, Imperial Chemical Industries, Esso and Unilever, to name but a few.

There are opportunities to work in small and medium size businesses which frequently provide technical services to the larger concerns. For the adventurous there are also opportunities to operate either as a consultant within a particular industry sector or to run your own business.

At the forefront of tomorrow’s scientific and technological development, tackling some of the world’s most urgent problems - Chemical Engineers are rising to the challenge of finding innovative and practical solutions which are economically viable, environmentally benign and safe. They are involved in projects that include:

  • rethinking systems for treating and recycling water to beat water shortages and increase our freshwater supply;
  • using hydrogen-based fuel cells, whose only emission is water, to supply heat and power thus reducing air pollution;
  • the creation of miniaturised, environmentally friendly and possibly mobile factories which could reorganise global industry, reduce emissions from transportation and lessen the impact on the landscape;
  • the development of production processes that will enable consumers to choose the function, style and colour of their purchase which would be specially made and delivered within a short time frame;
  • the reduction of the use of agrochemicals by harnessing natural processes; and
  • the implantation of biosensors into humans to detect diseases before they become critical, catching the disease early enough to be treated and preventing the need for costly health care.

Bright people who are good communicators, motivated, able to work on their own or as a team and interested in a challenge are prime candidates to study Chemical Engineering at University.

A good level of education with a strong scientific element, preferably including Maths and Chemistry, is required. Universities welcome international students and are happy to provide advice to any students who are unsure about whether their qualifications are suitable for their chosen degree programme.

In these circumstances the International Office or the Admissions Tutor in the Department should be the first port of call.

People whose pre-university qualifications are not mainly in science can achieve the necessary basic scientific background by taking a one-year foundation course prior to a degree.

Courses and requirements for both foundation and degree courses vary so it is always worth investigating the possibilities. The Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) can provide a summary of entry requirements to all degree, foundation and HND/HNC courses.

There are opportunities to include languages, management and other more specific options such as Environmental Technology, Brewing and Distilling Technology, Energy Resource Engineering and Mineral Engineering as part of a Chemical Engineering degree.

Completion of an accredited degree and four or five years industrial experience (possibly through a formal training program) can lead to full membership of the IChemE (meaning you can use the letters MIChemE after your name) and be accorded status as a Chartered Chemical Engineer - essential in any successful career in Chemical Engineering.

Clearly, a degree in Chemical Engineering provides the skills that open doors to the careers of the 21st century. There has been a steady growth in the worldwide demand for graduate Chemical Engineers.

They have the multi-disciplinary skills that keep their options open and they are valued and well rewarded in many kinds of employment. Wherever that may be, however, there is always plenty of scope for ambition.

The future is uncertain and unpredictable, but wherever we face challenges Chemical Engineers are already working on the solution. Would you like to be part of the solution too?

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