If chemistry, to you, is about more than just a romantic connection, then a career as a chemical engineer may be worth a closer look.
A chemical engineer designs, plans and manages plants where chemical products are processed into final products of enhanced value. You would be involved in applying techniques of heat, mass and momentum transfer and contribute to all steps of the chemical process.
You will need to have completed the following subjects at high school:
- Pure Mathematics (matric level)
- Phycial Science (matric level)
The following institutions are recommended for studies in engineering:
- University of Cape Town – APS of 38+ with 80% for pure mathematics; 70% for physical science and passing NBT
- University of KwaZulu Natal – APS of 36+ with 70% for pure mathematics and physical science
- Wits University – APS of 42+ with 70% in pure mathematics and physical science
In order to qualify as a Chemical Engineer, you will need a BSc degree in chemical engineering. Furthermore, you will be required to gain practical experience during university vacations. Once you’ve graduated, you must register with the Engineering Council of South Africa as an engineer in training. You will then go into training for three years with an employer and once you’re done, you can register as a professional engineer.
Note: if you choose to study for a BTech degree, you will only be recognised as a chemical engineering technologist and not a bona fide engineer.
You will need to have the following traits in order to succeed as a chemical engineer:
be curious, alert and open-minded
an aptitude for chemistry, physics and maths
ability to communicate well in speech and writing
You will usually find yourself working in one of the following spaces in the industry:
- chemical manufacturers
- council for mineral technology
- government departments and universities
- organisations such as CSIR, ESKOM, AECI, Sasol, AEC, Sentrachem
Your working hours will depend on where you work and the project you have to work on. So the hours can range from standard 8 hour days to 12 hour days or more.
In terms of the pay, chemical engineers can start on as little as R12 000 but this can go up to R60 000 a month. The average chemical engineer salary in South Africa is R45 000.
Here are a few reality checks that come with a career as a Chemical Engineer. You will have to:
- solve difficult problems
- keep up with chemical advances
- possibly endure long hours for demanding projects
- possibly have to work in remote areas in order to find employment