Chemical Engineering Degrees

What degrees can I earn?

Earning an onsite or online engineering degree will open up many career opportunities for graduates. While the top chemical engineering degrees in this field are chemical engineering graduate programs and undergraduate programs, students looking for exposure to the discipline can also earn an associates degree. For those looking for a career in scientific research, a chemical engineering doctoral degree is available at dozens of colleges and universities in the U.S. and overseas.


Certificates in engineering are typically pursued by engineers who are looking to enhance their knowledge in a specific area of their field. In order to earn an undergraduate or graduate certificate, candidates must have completed a bachelors or masters degree, although some programs will allow students enrolled in these programs to concurrently pursue a certificate.

An engineering certificate may impart added knowledge in safety, operations and management, or environmental protection. Certificate programs are typically an average of 15 credit hours and take 2 to 3 semesters to complete.

Associates degree

An associates degree program can typically be earned in 2 years after completion of 60 to 80 credit hours. The degree is offered as an Associate of Chemical Engineering or an Associate of Science with a chemical engineering concentration. Programs often require completion of core math and science courses as prerequisites for entry, although students may have the option to pass a qualifying test to waive those requirements.

Bachelors degree

A Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering or a Bachelor of Engineering with a chemical engineering focus is a popular degree program in the engineering field. The on-campus or online engineering bachelors degree program takes 4 years to complete the 120 to 140 credit hours needed to graduate, and will likely require advanced math, chemistry and physics courses as prerequisites for entry.

Masters degree

A chemical engineering masters is becoming a more frequently earned credential as the engineering field becomes increasingly competitive. Degree offerings are the Master of Science in Chemical Engineering or Master of Engineering with a chemical engineering concentration.

Graduates of an online engineering masters degree program will complete 30 to 40 hours of coursework over the course of 2 to 3 years. Applicants to the program may be required to earn a qualifying score on the GRE and to have shown prior interest and competency in the field.


The highest degree offerings for chemical engineering are the PhD in engineering and ScD, or Doctor of Science degrees. The length of time for a chemical engineering PhD program varies widely due to the high level of written and scientific research that may be necessary to complete the program. Credit hours can range from 50 to 120 hours beyond a bachelors degree, and depending upon the length of the research project may range from 2 to 8 years to complete.

Are there any programs online?

Chemical engineering degree programs online have become well attended as colleges and universities in the private and nonprofit sector work to improve content and technology for distance education. Programs can be offered as partial or hybrid, requiring some courses to be taken onsite, or they can be offered entirely online.

Online degrees

As you prepare to earn a chemical engineering associates degree online, be sure to research accredited online chemical engineering colleges that offer the opportunity to transition into a bachelors program upon completion of your degree. Most brick-and-mortar institutions allow for a seamless transition between the associates and bachelors degrees, including the transfer of credits, and understanding that option could save you time and money if you decide to further your studies.

While many top universities offer a chemical engineering bachelors degree online, you will want to be sure that you have the self-discipline to stick to your curriculum. Poor self-directed study habits can be a barrier to the success of online students, and 4 years of maintaining a strict online work schedule may be difficult for those who lack those skills.

Another challenge of earning an online masters degree is the lack of easy access to networking opportunities. Students earning their degrees at a campus-based college or university will regularly interact with professionals in the field who may connect them with potential job opportunities.

Be sure to make networking a priority by interacting with engineering professional organizations and engaging internship opportunities for maximum exposure in order to make connections that may be useful in your job search upon graduation.

Earning a PhD may require a great deal of research, and one of the challenges of attending chemical engineering schools online is the potential lack of laboratory resources and equipment available to you. The best programs will accommodate your research needs and will help to ensure that you have access to the necessary facilities.

What kinds of classes will I take in my program?

During the first 2 years of your undergraduate program, you will take onsite or online engineering courses in chemistry, calculus and physics. As you continue, you will study advanced chemistry and thermodynamics, and will take high-level laboratory courses during your junior and senior years.

Online chemical engineering courses and campus-based graduate studies will offer intermediate, advanced and specialized graduate courses in chemistry, biochemical and molecular engineering, and industrial chemistry and particulate systems.

Finally, as a PhD or ScD candidate, your work will focus upon independent research on a topic related to chemical engineering. Your earned credit hours during this program will likely focus on taking a doctoral qualifying examination in addition to your dissertation project proposal and your dissertation defense.

What careers can I choose from?

Chemical engineering jobs typically fall into core areas of chemical process engineering and chemical product engineering, which are considered to be the best careers in chemical engineering.

Chemical process engineer

A chemical process engineer designs and oversees the chemical processes in a laboratory or plant to ensure safety and efficiency. Many jobs in this field can be found in manufacturing facilities that create metals, plastics, pesticides and foods. Most engineering jobs in chemical processing require a bachelors degree with a strong preference for a masters degree. Salaries in this field typically range from $55,0000 to $106,000 depending on your education and experience.

Chemical product engineer

Chemical product engineers develop new ways to make or alter existing substances for inclusions in products such as pharmaceutical ingredients, food and beverages and cosmetics. The role of the chemical product engineer is to ensure that the product meets quality standards and to modify the product as necessary.

Job opportunities for chemical product engineers require a bachelors degree at minimum. A chemical engineering salary in product engineering ranges from $48,000 to $94,000.

Is there anything else I should know about getting a degree?

Many chemical engineering jobs require applicants to have a Professional Engineer license. If you are interested in this license, you must take the Fundamentals in Engineering exam. Once you pass, you will be considered an engineer-in-training until you become eligible to sit for your licensure exam.

The National Certification Commission in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering offers a certification that is sponsored by The American Institute of Chemists, Inc. The certification strives to recognize chemical engineers who have shown a commitment to continuing education and career development. Requirements for this engineering certification include a bachelors in engineering, as well as documentation highlighting recent involvement in career development activities.