I really like chemistry and have been interested to venture into chemical engineering. However, my family does not encourage me to do so because they said that it is a dangerous job and I have to be exposed to chemicals. So my question is, is it really dangerous to be a chemical engineer?
by Margarate, Malaysia
on March 28, 2012
I am delighted to hear that you are considering Chemical Engineering as a major in college and perhaps as a career.
As you might expect, Chemical Engineers spend a lot of time learning the fundamentals of chemistry, especially physical and organic chemistry. They also take a lot of mathematics courses (usually four) and they learn some physics and biology before specializing in the fundamentals of chemical engineering (courses like thermodynamics, fluid mechanics and chemical kinetics, but also process control, separation processes and heat and mass transfer).
When you graduate, you will find that a degree in Chemical Engineering is valued by a broad range of potential employers: pharmaceutical companies, chemical companies, semiconductor and electronics companies, consumer products, and oil and gas companies. But chemical engineers graduates are also hired by some companies that you might not expect, like banks and other financial institutions, consulting firms, and food companies.
Of course, safety at work is an issue. But there is not a reputable industry that I know that hires chemical engineers that doesn't have employee safety as their most important concern. The safety of workers in the chemical industry is, in fact, much better than the average manufacturing job in the U.S. But chemical engineers work in so many industries that, if safety is a particular concern, you can work in a department or in an industry that does not involve exposure to hazardous materials. Chemical engineering is a wonderfully versatile degree to have and we make important advances in the production of products that make life better. It's a very fulfilling career path and one in which safety concerns should not be the deciding factor in your choice of study at college. I hope you keep working at your studies and fulfill your dreams, whatever they may be.
These are some myths about chemical engineering. No it is not unsafe to work as a chemical engineer. There are many avenues of chemical engineering. It is the base for many new streams like bio engineering. As a woman you can opt for R &D , plant design, pilot plant development work, or any other process of engineering work. These jobs do not expose you to any harmful chemicals. Also, these days plants are so well designed that the fugitive emissions are minimum and human exposure is well taken care.
I have worked in plants, pilot plants for almost 25 years now. But chemistry and chemical engineering are two different fields. Chemical engineering is highly mathematical and unless you have aptitude for maths and are good with calculus etc you should not opt.
But safety is no issue.