Figure 6: Engineering & Technical Wages

The chemical engineer, with a bachelors degree, is usually paid very well. While this may be partly because of a broad background in science and engineering, it also has a lot to do with the type of industries that employ chemical engineers. About half of today's chemical engineers work in the petroleum and petrochemical industry. Often these industries require enormously expensive capital equipment, and therefor employee salaries becomes a much smaller part of the overall cost of doing business. Because of this, it makes good sense for these companies to pay handsomely to get the best person for the job.

"Enough already...go to the bottom."

Figure 6-1, Source: "US Bureau of the Census, Historical Abstract 1993."

One interesting trend in these wage figures is the relatively low salary increase chemical engineers receive by acquiring higher degrees. In some professions, such as chemistry, it makes a lot of financial sense to attain the highest degree possible. However, this is not necessarily the case for chemical engineers.

Figure 6-2, Source: "US Bureau of the Census, Historical Abstract 1993."

1999 Entry Level Wages Based on Degree Earned

Chemical Engineering
Electrical Engineering
Mechanical Engineering
Civil Engineering
Note that BS chemical engineers are loosing their salary advantage (see 1993 data above). Also, BS electrical engineers now make more than BS mechanical engineers.

Figure 6-2b, Source: "National Association of Colleges and Employers, 1999 Survey"

1998 Entry Level Wages Based on Degree Earned


Figure 6-2c, Source: "ACS Survey of recent graduates, 1998"

It is also informative to examine the number of degrees awarded to each of these professions over the last thirty years or so. In the 1980's the personal computer craze fueled an incredible surge in the number of computer science degrees. The PC also dramatically increased the number of electrical engineering graduates. An unrelated, but interesting point, is the number of chemistry majors which go on to get their Ph.D. degrees. Chemists undoubtedly are very aware of how their pay scale is structured and try to take advantage of that insight.

Figure 6-3, Source: "US Bureau of the Census."

Figure 6-4, Source: "US Bureau of the Census."

Figure 6-5, Source: "US Bureau of the Census."

Figure 6-6, Source: "US Bureau of the Census."

Employment Outlook for Chemical Engineers

"Chemical engineering graduates may face keen competition for jobs as the number of openings is projected to be substantially lower than the number of graduates. Employment of chemical engineers is projected to grow as fast as the average for all occupations though 2008. Although overall employment in the chemical manufacturing industry is expected to decline, chemical companies will continue to research and develop new chemicals and more efficient processes to increase output of existing chemicals. Among manufacturing industries, specialty chemicals, plastics materials, pharmaceuticals, and electronics may provide the best opportunities. Much of the projected growth in employment of chemical engineers, however, will be in nonmanufacturing industries, especially services industries."

Source: Occupational Outlook Handbook 2000-01 Edition, US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Table of Contents

A Century of Contributions

Oil, Energy, & Petrochemicals

Petroleum: Origins of the Industry

Chemical Engineering Timeline

"The end already...go back to the top."


Last updated on October 10, 2000 by Wayne Pafko...
Copyright 2000, Wayne Pafko