Chemical Engineering

What is a Chemical Engineer?

Chemical engineers use their knowledge of chemistry, physics, biology, mathematics and economics to develop new processes and products and to improve existing processes. They translate scientists’ developments into large-scale production and apply chemistry and materials knowledge to a range of engineered products.

A chemical engineer might specialize in:

Chemicals manufacturing - refining of petroleum, production of polymers, basic chemicals such as salt, specialty chemicals such as synthetic rubber, perfumes, pharmaceuticals, paint and specialty gases for semiconductor manufacturing.

Advanced materials manufacturing - production of semiconductor wafers for computers and electronic devices, carbon nanotubes, abrasives, inks, etc.

Biomedical engineering - development of sensors for early detection of disease and protective coatings for implants and drug delivery, tissue engineering for creation of implants and artificial body parts.

Pharmaceuticals - development of scale-up processes for new drugs, cell-based processes for biomedical chemicals and materials for safe and effective packaging.

Energy Conversion - development of materials and catalysts for fuel cells, hybrid cars, batteries, solid state lighting and large-scale power plants.

Food processing - advancement of food products and processes including packaged foods, agricultural products, and brewing and distilling.

Why Become a Chemical Engineer?

Chemical engineering is a challenging and exciting career. Chemical engineers produce chemicals and materials that impact every aspect of our world from pharmaceuticals to soap, toothpaste to paint, and whiskey to plastics. Today’s chemical engineers also are contributing to the nanotechnology, bio-medical, electronics and computer revolutions.

According to a 2003 salary survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, bachelor degree candidates in chemical engineering received starting offers averaging $52,384 a year, master degree candidates averaged $57,857, and Ph.D. candidates averaged $70,729.

In addition to a relatively stable job market and financial reward, chemical engineers have the gratification that comes from working with the processes of nature to meet the needs of society. There is no limit to the personal satisfaction gained from helping make our world a better place to live.

The following websites provide a good introduction to the wonderful world of today’s chemical engineer:

Who Hires Chemical Engineers?

Chemical engineers are employed in manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, design and construction, pulp and paper, petrochemicals, food processing, specialty chemicals, microelectronics, electronic and advanced materials, polymers, business services, biotechnology, and environmental health and safety industries, among others.

In all these companies chemical engineers apply their knowledge, training, communication and teamwork skills to solve the problems of today’s industry.

Where are Our Alumni?

Graduates of our program are employed by:


The following illustrates the diversity of careers that can evolve from a background in CHE.

  • CEO of MBA Polymers Inc., Richmond, CA
  • Manager Bulk Manufacturing USA, Eli Lilly, Indianapolis, IN
  • Development Engineer, Lexmark International, Lexington KY
  • Research Scientist, Dow Chemical Company, Midland, MI


Chemical Engineering at Speed School

The chemical engineering curriculum is an integrated five-year program, with a cooperative education component, culminating in a Master of Engineering degree.Both the Bachelor of Science and the Master of Engineering degrees are accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET, CHE majors have the option of  pursuing the traditional chemical engineering program or a newer concentration in biochemical engineering.

As freshmen, students develop a solid foundation in engineering principles along with a background in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Laboratory facilities and three semesters of on-the-job learning through the Cooperative Education Program provide hands-on experience with process control, computeraided engineering, and separation methods. Class topics include material and energy balances, catalysis and chemical reactors, heat and mass transfer, polymers, thermodynamic properties, environmental controls, biotechnology, and materials.

The depth, breadth, and flexibility of the program make it an excellent choice for students considering graduate study leading to a Doctor of Philosophy degree or advanced study in medicine, law, or business administration. In fact, Speed School offers a joint MEng/MBA program with the College of Business and Public Administration enabling students to apply 12 hours of their engineering courses toward the business degree.

Students have an opportunity to socialize with classmates and faculty, network with practicing chemical engineers, tour industrial sites and participate in national and regional professional meetings through involvement in the American Institute of Chemical Engineers student chapter.

Department Highlights

  • Small classes offering personalized instruction
  • Opportunities for undergraduate as well as graduate research
  • Specialty courses and research in nanotechnology, materials, and environmental issues

For Additional Information

J. B. Speed School of Engineering
University of Louisville
Louisville, KY 40292

Department of Chemical Engineering
Ernst Hall
University of Louisville
Visit department website
Phone: (502) 852-6347
Email Joel Fried

Office of Admissions
Phone: (502) 852-4672