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Chemical engineering courses

Chemical engineers are involved in the design, development and operation of systems and procedures that change raw materials into useable and useful end products - which could be anything from pharmaceuticals, to make-up, to plastics. You'll need a strong grasp of maths and chemistry and will develop your knowledge both at a molecular level through to its real-world application in large-scale commercial or industrial environments. Many courses involve work placements and sandwich years for on-the-job training.

Studying chemical engineering at university

Example course modules

  • Material sciences and engineering
  • Introduction to process engineering
  • Process modelling and thermodynamics
  • Introduction to petroleum engineering
  • Engineering design fundamentals
  • Mass and energy balances
  • Industrial chemistry
  • Process design project
  • Chemical reaction engineering
  • Cell biology

Teaching hours / week

Average for this subject


Average for all subjects

The time you'll spend in lectures and seminars each week will vary from university to university, so use this as a guide.

More on studying and contact hours at uni

Who studies this subject

  • Female : 30%
    Male : 70%
  • Mature : 7%
    School leaver : 93%
  • Full-time : 95%
    Part-time : 5%

What students say about chemical engineering

What you need to get on a course

Subjects you need

A-levels (or equivalent) usually required

  • Maths
  • Chemistry
  • Physics

Useful to have

  • Further maths
  • Design technology

Application checklist

Here's a guide to what to expect from the application process - also check individual university entry requirements, as these may differ.

  • January application
  • October application
  • Personal statement
  • Portfolio
  • Interview
  • Entry test
  • Work experience
  • Audition

Personal statement advice

Your personal statement is a core part of your university application, and getting it just right takes time. Before you start work on yours, take a look at our five quick tips on writing a personal statement. We'll help you past that writer's block!

Career prospects

Sources: HECSU & KIS
Although the chemicals industry, like a lot of manufacturing, had a tough time during the recession, the UK has had a shortage of chemical engineers for a while now so starting salaries are good. In fact, across the UK, only doctors and dentists bettered the average starting salary for chemical engineering graduates, and in Scotland, where the best starting salaries for chemical engineers are to be found (thanks to the oil and gas industry), even dentists lagged behind last year. So if you want to make good money from the start, this is the degree to take. Most graduates take a longer course that leads to an MEng – which is what you need to take if you want to be a Chartered Engineer. Chemical engineers are also more likely than other engineers to take doctorates and go into research roles, so if you want to take an engineering subject but fancy a research job, this might be a good subject to take.
Professional and accrediting bodies:

Six months after graduating

Typical graduate job areas
  • Engineering professionals

Longer term career paths

Jobs where this degree is useful

  • Chemical engineer
  • Pharmaceutical engineer
  • Research and development engineer

Other real-life job examples

  • Design engineer
  • Production manager
  • Glass or ceramics engineer

What employers like about this subject

You will develop a range of subject-specific skills on a chemical engineering course, depending on how you choose to specialise. Students may opt to study anything from the separation and processing of solids, liquids and gases to thermodynamics, the control and prediction of chemical reactions, and the principles of energy efficiency. This is a specialist and sought-after degree among employers and so most graduates stay within the chemicals and other related industries, such as oil and gas and the nuclear industry. Other industries that chemical engineers joined last year included the perfumes industry and water treatment and processing.