Chemical Engineering Advising Guide

Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

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What is Chemical Engineering?

Chemical Engineering is the profession in which knowledge of mathematics, chemistry, and the other natural sciences gained by study, experience, and practice is applied with judgment to develop economic ways of using materials and energy for the benefit of mankind.

Chemical Engineers design chemical plant equipment and devise processes for manufacturing chemicals and products, such as gasoline, synthetic rubber, plastics, detergents, cement, paper, pharmaceutical products, and electronic materials. A background in chemical engineering offers a number of career options:

  • Research: Research engineers work with chemists to develop new products or new ways to make existing products more efficiently.
  • Design: Design engineers create processes that convert a raw material into a final product. Chemists invented the many synthetic fibers we use today, but chemical engineers designed the plants that produce them at an affordable cost.
  • Development: Chemical engineers look for ways to improve new or existing processes. The "greening" of much of the Third World is due to a big reduction in the cost of ammonia production, which made it possible for poorer nations to manufacture this important fertilizer.
  • Production: The manufacture of chemicals requires continuous supervision. Is the product of specified purity? Is the production rate what it should be? Are control instruments performing properly? Is the process as safe as it can be? Production engineers are always answering such questions.
  • Technical Sales: Why isn't our product doing what it is supposed to for our customers? Could our new product be used more economically than current materials? Why did that new paint peel from one house? Sales engineers answer such questions. People skills, as well as technical ability, are very important for these chemical engineers.
  • Management: Many chemical engineers are promoted to management positions. While less involved in technology, they make policy and business decisions, train new engineers, and solve human, rather than technical, problems.

 

Career Opportunities in Chemical Engineering 

Petroleum, chemical, and pharmaceutical companies have been the traditional employers of chemical engineers. However, increasing numbers of chemical engineers are currently being hired by food, electronics, textile, pulp and paper, rubber, metal, cement, plastic, and biotech industries. Also, consider continuing your education to better enhance your career opportunities! The chemical industry employs a large number of chemical engineers with masters and doctoral degrees for jobs that involve a research component. A doctoral degree is required for an academic position. Graduate research can open the door to a life of inquiry that is intellectually challenging and professionally satisfying. 

A chemical engineering undergraduate degree is also a viable "pre-med" option since all the courses required to take the medical entrance (MCAT) are part of a standard chemical engineering undergraduate curriculum. About 5-10% of an entering medical school class consists of chemical engineers. 

An undergraduate degree in chemical engineering coupled with some industrial experience can be leveraged to attend management school. An MBA can significantly enhance chances of career advancement in the chemical industry. 

Some chemical engineering majors also choose to go to law school, typically to specialize in patent law. This is a particularly lucrative field in today's technologically advanced society.

 

Salary Trends in Chemical Engineering 

Salaries earned by Chemical Engineers are depended on their degree level, but also on getting professionally licensed. According to the NACE Salary Survey for 2017, Chemical Engineers at the B.S. level will make on average $68, 445 per year.

 

High School Preparation

Many students assume Chemical Engineering is simply chemistry, but don’t realize the importance of math and physics. To best prepare for a degree and career in Chemical Engineering, consider taking multiple chemistry classes in high school to gain a stable understanding of chemistry. Also, take trigonometry and calculus classes. If you have access to AP/IB classes or the opportunity to take classes at a community college, those too will give you a good idea of the expectation and preparation for the classes you will be expected to take in college.

 

How to Major in Chemical Engineering

To major in Chemical Engineering, students must take a total of 18 hours of general education classes (not including English Composition I and II). It is important that students make adequate progress in the Chemical Engineering program. Satisfactory completion of a set of fundamental courses is required before a student is allowed to take advanced courses. Professional Component Standing (PCS) is awarded by the chair of the department when the student completes the College of Engineering PCS requirements and the ChBE departmental PCS requirements. 

College of Engineering PCS Courses  
Course Number Course Title Minimum Grade 
EH 101 English Composition I C
EH 102 English Composition II C
CH 131 General Chemistry I with Lab C
MA 125 Calculus I C
MA 126 Calculus II C
PH 201 Calculus-Based Physics I with Lab C

 

Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering PCS Courses  
Course Number Course Title Minimum Grade
CH 132 General Chemistry II with Lab C
CH 201 Organic Chemistry I with Lab C
MA 227 Calculus III C
MA 238 Differential Equations I C
BLY 121 General Biology I C
CHE 203 Material and Energy Balances C


Students who fail to maintain at least a 2.00 GPA overall at the University of South Alabama will lose PCS and may be required to take or repeat appropriate courses as specified by the department chair to correct their deficiencies and may not be permitted to continue in 300- and 400-level engineering courses.  CHE 203 may only be taken twice.  Failure to achieve a C or better grade in the second attempt of CHE 203 will result in dismissal from the Chemical Engineering program. 

Effective Fall 2020, Chemical Engineering students are no longer required to take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. All electives must be approved by the student's advisor. Degree requirements include a minimum of 18 semester hours of approved electives in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Satisfactory completion of the 126 hour program outlined in the Bulletin leads to a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering. Students must also comply with the College of Engineering Requirements for a Degree, which are covered in the Bulletin under the College of Engineering.

 

Special Programs, Co-ops, and Internships

Students are encouraged to intern once they’ve completed their fundamental classes; however, if they co-op during their Junior year, this could postpone graduation by a year as classes are semester specific starting Fall of the Junior year through Senior year. If a student applies and accepts a co-op, with the knowledge of postponing graduation, they should register their co-op with Career Services so that the co-op will reflect on their official transcripts.

Chemical Engineering Highlights 

Many of our Chemical Engineering majors are interested in attending medical school upon graduation. We provide a pre-med chemical engineering track as well as multiple opportunities for students to do undergraduate research in biomedical engineering.

Study Abroad Opportunities 

The College of Engineering has agreements with six German Universities for exchange programs. Please contact the College of Engineering or Study Abroad Office for more information and details on the exchange program

 

Academic Plan

Following an academic plan will help you stay on track to graduate in four years. 

To see a sample academic plan for this major, please click here.  Degree plans provide only a suggested schedule; make sure to meet with your academic advisor to find the actual schedule that is right for you.

For additional degree information, visit the undergraduate bulletin.

 

For More Information

Please contact the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering for more information at (251) 460-6160 or Nani Perez Uribe at nperezuribe@southalabama.edu.

 

You can find us on campus at:

College of Engineering
Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering
Shelby Hall, Rm 4134
150 Student Services Drive
Mobile, AL 36688

Website: http://www.southalabama.edu/colleges/engineering/chbe/

 

*The information on this page should be considered general information only. For more specific information on this and other majors, please refer to the USA bulletin or contact the department/College directly.