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Chemistry matters – Career in Chemical Engineering

FPJ Bureau | Updated on: Saturday, June 01, 2019, 05:18 AM IST

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For those who love the idea of innovation, chemical engineering can provide many career options.

Sector overview

Think chemical engineering, and your mind automatically goes on to the school chemistry lab, the picture of something boiling in a beaker and all kinds of fumes emanating from mysterious substances. And if this is really the picture that the thought of chemistry conjures up in your mind, you will have to learn more. There is much more to chemistry and chemical engineering than fuming chemicals.

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It includes several aspects, from small innovations to improve the sturdiness of a substance, to the design and maintenance of chemical plants and the development of chemical processes for converting raw materials or chemicals into valuable forms including those to remove chemicals from waste materials, to enable large-scale manufacture.

Whatever you see and use every day, is related to some form of chemical engineering, according to a young person who work in the field. Right from the fuel you use to get from one place to the other or the petroleum jelly you use on sore skin, it has something to do with chemical engineering.

With the expansion of the scientific community over the globe, the focus on this field has also improved. The applications of chemistry to develop technology have grown tremendously, and it has certainly provided the impetus that the field of chemical engineering needed.

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This could prove to be a fruitful career for those who have an interest in working minute details, and understand how a minor change can create a huge difference. Apart from the interest, a certain level of aptitude in science is also needed. Aspirants need to understand that chemical engineering might differ from chemical technology, so be sure which field you want to pursue. The work is most versatile, involving the invention, development, design, operation and management of processes in industries.

To get there

To pursue any kind of engineering, the road is pretty straight forward. You need to finish class 12 (HSC or equivalent) and then take the relevant entrance exams to secure admission to an engineering degree programme, which would be the bachelor’s. This is of four years duration, during which you embark upon a journey into this field and figure out your specific interests and what you would like to do in future.

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For those who are sure and want to opt for the field immediately after class 10, many colleges affiliated to known universities offer Diploma in Chemical Engineering (which is of three years duration) after class 10. The admission is based on the marks secured in the class 10 examination. After completion of the diploma, a candidate can opt for a transfer to a degree programme, but many times it proves to be very competitive since only a few seats are available for such transfer students each year.

For those interested in studying further, the option of a master’s programme is open, after which you can also pursue a doctoral programme, if you know what your research field is likely to be. In addition, if you are interested in teaching, you can mould your study and research accordingly.

Several institutes in India offer Chemical Engineering, like the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). Besides these, there are also the National Institutes of Technology (NITs) located all over the country also provide this course. Many colleges affiliated to the University of Mumbai also offer the programme, the most noted one being Institute of Chemical Technology in Mumbai.

The job market

Wor those who graduate with a goal in mind, the destination cannot be far away. There are several opportunities within the public and private sectors, but one should know where to look and what to look for. If you want a satisfying career, you need to work on it during your undergrad days and look upon things differently and the possibilities of doing something new or bringing

about a change.

Chemical engineers are employed in manufacturing industries, food processing industries, chemical process industries such as fertilizer, pesticides, specialty chemicals, dyes, dyestuff, paint and lubricants.

If this degree is combined with a management degree, several additional doors open up in the private sector. Since every company has some environmental restrictions, chemical engineers are employed to resolve these issues along with environmental engineers.

Research is coming up in a big way, like never before. Patented products are on the anvil for companies big and small, and for that, they need innovation. It is an essential part of this field to innovate and create products that are needed for those which will improve the quality of life for the masses. Engineers are needed to work in energy departments and also employed in a variety of manufacturing industries like electronics, photographic equipment, clothing, pulp and paper and even in the development of aircrafts.

Remuneration

With the need for chemical engineers, the remuneration is good, to say the least. It may not match up initially with the more glamourous professions like chartered accountancy or medicine, but there is a definite adventure component attached to it.

The remuneration also depends on the industries employing chemical engineers such as Central or State government departments or private concerns. Working experience, qualifications, ability are important factors in determining the pay level. Those who are working in the private sector are well paid.

Those who have recently completed their graduation and have a bachelor’s degree can earn a starting salary of about `20,000 to `25,000 per month. Diploma holders earn in the range of `11,000 to `14,000 per month, including the government sector.

After a few years spent working in the industry, a candidate will realise where the career trajectory is headed. With adequate experience, you can also opt for a further degree, or a different job. With a few years of experience one can earn more, possibly between `35,000 and `60,000 a month. Those engineers who have had a long career and experience at various levels, also in management, can earn up to `65,000 or even more.

A student says

Sanjog Bhoir / Pursuing his Degree

In spite of the fact that I work as hard as anyone else in another profession (sometimes harder) I am fast dismissed by the person who asks the question – “what do you do” or “what are you studying?” I want to tell aspirants not to worry about such ignorant people, they are never going to understand beyond their limited perspective.

However, if I want to bring in the wow factor, I simply mention a few experiments that are conducted in my lab, and see them stare open mouthed, since they understand how important it is, and yet not know anything more about it.

For those who want to know, chemical engineering is indeed a versatile subject, since the content of the course is such. Often we are offered courses from other disciplines of engineering but our courses are unique.

In modern times, chemical engineers are engaged in the development and production of a wide range of diversified products and chemicals as well as common daily life commodities. It is a great satisfaction to know that a person from your profession has devised something that eases the work, and you aspire to improve in a similar manner!

In the field

Sushila Meetha / Chemical engineer

Chemical engineering is field that is not difficult to enter, but is a little challenging to survive in the field. You see, college life will go by with passing marks and copying from friends in the examination, but then to survive in the field for your entire life, you need to love what you are doing and be motivated to move on.

I know of students who are so engrossed in their projects that their life and work just merge into one, and they spend several years working on a chemical, and improving its prospects in other ancillary fields.

I work with many other colleagues and I am responsible for guiding some of them who have hopped on to the project straight after college. I also have to explain the technicalities to non-technical people who might not understand everything about chemical engineering. I work with these individuals in a manner that they feel adequately led, and yet not extremely stifled. I step in for trouble shooting whenever needed. Depending on the environment, a normal day’s routine may vary but will usually include long hours.

An aspirant asks

Amit Vaghela / Class 12 student

My sister has passed her diploma in chemical engineering and she is pursuing an internship with a small firm which is into innovation of new products, depending on the clients’ needs. I also feel fascinated by her work, but I think I don’t know enough about the field. I like science, and I have an aptitude for it, but I am not sure that these qualities are enough to pursue a satisfying career. Is there a back up option?

Professional Sushila Meetha answers: It is always good to have a back up option, whichever career you choose, but you should be able to work in a manner that you do not need to fall back on the other option. I think that if you have these attributes, and you are already observing a person who is working in the field, you should have adequate background to understand more about the field. If you have any questions, why don’t you ask your sister? Ask her what she studied and how, and whether or not she enjoyed it. Learn about her work and think of the future syllabus before taking any decision.

I think your love for the subjects, your foresight about hard work and your sheer grit and determination will take you through. You seem to be a person who enjoys challenges, and this field is going to present you new ones every day. It’s challenging and ever-changing, and it offers different career paths.

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Published on: Monday, December 29, 2014, 12:05 AM IST