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Topic: Switching my major into Chem.E from just Chemistry?  (Read 11148 times)

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yg7s7

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Switching my major into Chem.E from just Chemistry?
« on: July 25, 2009, 07:03:52 PM »
Hi,
I'm a chemistry major right now, and I'm going into my junior year. This upcoming academic year, I'll be taking Physical chemistry 1-2, Physics 1-2, a semester of biochem, Diff. Eq.(because I'm math minor), and two other humanities courses. I'm very excited!

The thing is, I'm kind of interested in doing chemical engineering and losing interest in just pure chemistry. People tell me you have to go for Ph.D and do research (of which I have no experience) to get a decent pay. Chemical engineering looks much more intriguing to me, and the fact that lots of math is involved in it a huge plus for me, not to mention higher pay and better job scope.

My college doesn't have an engineering school. Is it possible for me to transfer to another college, even if it's a bit late, to pursue my real passion? I'm aware that if I do, I'll have to take a bunch of engineering classes to catch up.
Also, I heard many people with B.S in chem pursue advanced degree in Chem.E. Should I take this route? What can you do with Masters in Chem.E. as opposed to with just B.S in Chem.E? Right now I kinda want to just get a job after college rather than go to grad school.

Please I need help and guidance! Thanks in advance.

Offline eugenedakin

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Re: Switching my major into Chem.E from just Chemistry?
« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2009, 11:14:33 PM »
Hello yg7s7,

Well, the truth is... there are more high paying job opportunities for a chemical engineering position. The 'problem' with chemical engineering is that you design the plants infrastructure rather than design chemicals. To generalize this rule-of-thumb, a chemical engineer designs the pumps, pipes and tanks to transport chemicals, whereas the chemist designs the fluid that is being transported.

I myself, have both a chemical engineering degree and a chemistry degree (among others). I find that I use about 90% of my chemistry knowledge on a daily basis and about 10% of my chemical engineering. There is a great misconception with societies view of a chemist and a chemical engineer.

There will be those who agree and disagree with me (and that is perfectly fine).

When performing 'pure' chemical engineering, I found almost all of the jobs had 3 month to 2 year lives, and after that time you had to look for another job. In my humble opinion for the increased wage of a chemical engineer is that you are unemployed between positions (and you need the higher wage to compensate for this ... uhm.. time off). As a chemist, the positions are usually long-term (a minimum of 5 years per position) and there are typically no time-offs.

Again, this is based on 15 years experience in the oilfield in North America, and can widely vary based on different parts of the world and on other areas in the industry.

Again, just my humble opinion,

Eugene
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Offline nextpauling

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Re: Switching my major into Chem.E from just Chemistry?
« Reply #2 on: August 07, 2009, 05:41:14 PM »
"The 'problem' with chemical engineering is that you design the plants infrastructure rather than design chemicals. To generalize this rule-of-thumb, a chemical engineer designs the pumps, pipes and tanks to transport chemicals, whereas the chemist designs the fluid that is being transported. "

I wouldn't generalize quite that much.  It is true that chemical engineers have more training and familiarity with chemical process equipment, but the job of a chemical engineer is also troubleshooting.  Problems can arise which are purely mechanical in nature, purely chemical in nature, or a combination of both, and the chemical engineer is uniquely situated to address all three. 

I am currently working for an oilfield production chemical company and the engineers that work for us have a sound knowledge of the production facility equipment and what can go wrong with it.  However, a solid foundation in chemistry is also very useful when the chemical we sell malfuctions or causes problems, when we need to decide what chemical to sell a customer for their specific problems, and in finding out what could be causing the customer's problems (corrosion, scale deposition, wax deposition, etc. all involve chemistry immensely). 

What I enjoy most about the work is the ability to troubleshoot a problem to find out exactly what is going wrong and how to fix it.  With training in chemistry and chemical engineering, you will be very capable of solving a wide spectrum of problems.

I have a degree in chemistry and was thinking about going back for master's in ChemE, but I had heard that many times a master's degree will push you into research positions and out of regular engineering positions since companies may not want to pay a master's degree salary for a job someone with a bachelor's degree can do.  So I went back for the ChemE degree and absolutely loved the curriculum.  It does deal with mechanical/chemical process equipment but typically only as it relates to the chemical process industry.  You need to know how to use chemistry to acheive a particular goal, but a knowledge of the equipment available is also necessary so that you can apply that chemistry to solve industrial problems (you're not just going to use a giant beaker when you build a chemical plant).

I would say go for it, especially if research/lab work isn't something you want to do for the rest of your life.  The pay and the job opportunities are much better for a bachelor's ChemE than for a bachelor's chemist and you get to do much more exciting work in my opinion.

Hope this helps.

yg7s7

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Re: Switching my major into Chem.E from just Chemistry?
« Reply #3 on: August 09, 2009, 03:08:23 AM »

I have a degree in chemistry and was thinking about going back for master's in ChemE, but I had heard that many times a master's degree will push you into research positions and out of regular engineering positions since companies may not want to pay a master's degree salary for a job someone with a bachelor's degree can do.  So I went back for the ChemE degree and absolutely loved the curriculum. 


I see, so total how many years did it take for that?

Thanks for the replies, everyone!

Offline eugenedakin

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Re: Switching my major into Chem.E from just Chemistry?
« Reply #4 on: August 09, 2009, 10:01:08 AM »
Hello nextpauling,

Quote
I wouldn't generalize quite that much.  It is true that chemical engineers have more training and familiarity with chemical process equipment, but the job of a chemical engineer is also troubleshooting.  Problems can arise which are purely mechanical in nature, purely chemical in nature, or a combination of both, and the chemical engineer is uniquely situated to address all three.


Chuckle, it appears that we are saying the same thing. I currently have a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering and a M.Sc. and B.Sc. in Chemistry, and I found the other aspect of your statement. I found that I could quickly troubleshoot (through chemical means) a processing plant to achieve (on average) between 200-1000% throughput with existing equipment. The chemist is able to troubleshoot chemical, mechanical and both concerns. Before the title of Chemical Engineering was created by the engineering community, this title (of a person with mechanical engineering and chemical knowledge) was called a physical chemist.

I think that both of these disciplines are very close (Physical Chemist and Chemical Engineer), and I have hired both titles in my group and have found that both are equally capable of the same job (troubleshooting, mechanical and chemical issues).

It's interesting at how the titles change over the years (yikes, I am showing my age  ;) ).

Thanks for your kind comments.

Best wishes,

Eugene
There are 10 kinds of people in this world: Those who understand binary, and those that do not.

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