Become a Chemical Engineering Consultant: Career Guide

Find out how to become a chemical engineering consultant. Research the education requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in engineering.

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Do I Want to Be a Chemical Engineering Consultant?

Chemical engineering consultants inform businesses and government institutions about the myriad applications of chemical engineering. They act as outside contractors to supply specialized knowledge to organizations and may serve as expert witnesses in courts of law. Employment settings can include offices and labs, with some off-site work at industrial locations as necessary, where protective gear may be required. Engineers who are consultants generally travel often to meet with clients and work at client sites as needed; tasks are typically deadline-oriented. Consultants may be self-employed, and have to balance working on the needs of their current clients with reaching out to new clients in order to secure future work.

Job Requirements

Expertise is crucial in scientific consulting and may be accrued through professional experience and a master's degree program. The following table contains the main requirements for being a chemical engineering consultant:

Common Requirements
Degree Level Bachelor's degree required; more advanced positions may require a graduate degree*
Degree Field Chemical engineering or chemical and biomolecular engineering*
Experience Experience expected***
Computer Skills Ability to use field-specific software, such as G&P Engineering Software's EngVert, as well as computer-aided drafting (CAD) software; knowledge of C++**
Key Skills Math skills, analytical skills, teamwork*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; **O*Net OnLine; ***Think Resources, Inc.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree in Chemical Engineering

Prospective chemical engineering consultants can start gaining the necessary technical expertise through a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering program accredited by ABET, Inc., formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. These programs integrate many disciplines, with a special focus on chemistry, to solve engineering problems.

Success Tip:

  • Complete an internship. Since most chemical engineering bachelor's degree programs don't offer a track in consulting, undergraduates might opt to intern at a consulting firm to gain experience and make professional connections.

Step 2: Gain Work Experience and Training

Entry-level jobs in consulting usually come from large firms, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Although new workers have little responsibility off the bat, a job at a consulting firm allows them to learn and supplement skills crucial to their job. A beginning worker with a bachelor's degree often starts out as a research associate. Besides informal on-the-job training, consulting firms occasionally send their employees to formal training programs that include tips on project management and building relationships with clients.

Step 3: Become a Licensed Professional Engineer

Some states require chemical engineering consultants to be licensed professional engineers (PE), and prospective consultants in other states may find that being a PE adds to their credibility with employers and clients. States that license chemical engineering consultants regulate the exact requirements individually, but the process typically culminates in passing the PE exam for chemical engineering, offered twice a year through the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). Exam candidates need to have at least four years of professional engineering experience working under a licensed chemical engineer. To maintain licensure, an individual must complete continuing education requirements.

Step 4: Get a Master's Degree or Ph.D.

In consulting, advanced jobs typically require a master's degree or doctorate. Consultants aspiring to advancement from research assistant positions to even basic consulting jobs at large firms may earn a Master of Engineering in Chemical Engineering or a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering. The research and thesis requirements of graduate degree programs can refine a prospective consultant's area of expertise.

Step 5: Start Your Own Consulting Firm

Consultancy is a popular option for professional chemical engineers and academics, such as university researchers, who choose to start secondary careers later in life. Independent chemical engineering consultants must be familiar with both technical knowledge and marketing and business strategies.

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