“Chemical engineers are at the forefront of solving many societal challenges facing us today. We find them working on the development of processes and technologies such as fuel cells, conversion of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to green chemicals, mining of electronic waste, vertical farming, new vaccines, medical devices, or conversion of wood to fabrics for clothing, just to name a few.”
Given the important roles chemical engineers play in society, it is important to understand what the most important skills in industry are to succeed in your career aspirations and increase your value proposition as a potential job candidate.
In summary, the most important skills for a chemical engineer, regardless of industry, include:
The above mentioned skills, just like any other, can be categorized into hard and soft skills.
Hard Skills are related to the technical expertise and knowledge necessary to fulfill the responsibilities of a particular role. For example, a chemical engineer working on pipeline design must be technically adept at fluid mechanics and flow simulation software. Examples of hard/technical skills important to chemical engineering include:
Soft Skills, also called social skills, refer to the non-technical aspects of chemical engineer’s responsibilities. Chemical Engineering is an extremely collaborative discipline and the value of developing these soft skill must not be understated. Examples of these skills include:
Here’s are Chemical Engineer, Dr. Adedeji’s thoughts on the must-have skills for chemical engineers to develop:
Regardless of whether you choose to work in Operations or Process design, your role as a chemical engineer entails that you must possess a strong technical background. A chemical engineer’s day to day activities involve interfacing with process equipment such as pumps, heat exchangers, reactors etc. therefore a firm grasp of their operating principles will facilitate the completion of your tasks and projects.
Core chemical engineering undergraduate courses such as Transport Phenomena, Process Control, Mass and Energy Balances play an important role in troubleshooting process issues and failure modes. A good understanding of Physics is also beneficial as the working principles of most process equipment are governed by physical laws.
Engineers by nature are problem solvers. Chemical engineers in particular solve problems such as process design from conceptualization to commissioning or process issues and upsets.
Some of the important job responsibilities performed by chemical engineers that utilize this skillset include feasibility studies, root-cause analyses (RCA) and Hazard and Operability Analyses (HAZOP). These activities task chemical engineers to think creatively about solutions to process issues and potential safety and environmental risks.
Chemical engineers typically play different roles in multiple projects and are also responsible for leading their own projects. Project management is an essential skill for the planning and execution of projects by mapping them out into key phases.
Chemical engineers work very closely with process data. These include operating pressures, temperatures and flows of process inlets and outlets. To assist with troubleshooting exercises, it is important for a chemical engineer to effectively learn how to analyze data and draw insights into the process from it. Visualizations and dashboards are also important story-telling tools as findings are presented to key stakeholders.
Microsoft Excel is an important tool that all chemical engineers must develop a proficiency in and is a mainstay in industry for data collection and analysis.
A lot of software and computer skills used by chemical engineers are industry specific. Some software examples of popular software programs used by chemical engineers include Aspen Plus/HYSYS, Matlab, Python, Excel etc. You can read more about the top software and computer skills for chemical engineers here.
Chemical engineering is a highly collaborative discipline therefore, strong communication skills are necessary to streamline the flow of information. Effective communication allows chemical engineers to understand and present ideas quickly and accurately, avoiding misunderstandings which often lead to decreased cross collaboration and lower productivity.
Chemical engineers often work closely with other engineering disciplines, scientists, regulators, procurement, and stakeholders. Effective collaboration is the cornerstone of any successful organization and improving this skill will significantly accelerate your professional career.
Given the plethora of industries chemical engineers find themselves in, it is important to be proactive in equipping oneself with the necessary skills and knowledge to be able to thrive in these new facilities, operations and companies.
A chemical engineer must possess a high level of curiosity to bolster their knowledge of the ins and outs of a process.
Here is a one of Patryk’s recent YouTube videos titled “Think Like a Chemical Engineer” where he proposes 3 principles that have helped him succeed in his career.
Be sure to subscribe to his channel and leave a like and comment.
Excellent decision-making skills for chemical engineers is imperative. Typically, chemical engineers who work particularly in operations are responsible for changes that have huge ramifications. Having a robust and refined process in place that allows you to make the right decisions with accurate data and knowledge is a crucial skillset to develop as a chemical engineer and a leader.
Every chemical engineer is a leader in some respect. Leadership is closely linked with proactivity and taking initiative. Being able to take the initiative to perform the necessary steps to validate an idea, collaborate with the right stakeholders, and execute is an important part of the responsibilities carried out by chemical engineers.
Chemical Engineers work across a variety of industries.
Every job will require their own unique skills to succeed although the skills discussed in this article will pave a way for success in your career journey as a chemical engineer.