If you’re thinking about research jobs in chemical engineering, you’ll find a diverse and well-paid range of projects and initiatives to get involved in.
From fuel and food to medicines and energy resources, chemical engineering researchers carry out innovative and translational research, developing and improving the products and processes impacting all areas of everyday life.
Chemical engineering research is especially important in the fight against climate change, as the world attempts to move towards low-carbon energy. If you’re an aspiring chemical engineering researcher, you’ll find a wide range of projects focusing on environmental sustainability.
Research in this field reaches across engineering, sciences, medicine, maths and technology so there are projects available to suit every related specialism.
In this post, we look at a typical career path in chemical engineering research, what to expect and the types of jobs available.
Chemical engineering research is multi-disciplinary and takes place in a wide range of settings. The qualifications and experience required depend on the focus of individual research projects.
Most research posts require candidates to have completed a first degree and/or Masters and a PhD in a specialism related to chemical engineering.
On completion of doctoral studies, your next move would be to complete postdoctoral research with a university, research institute, public organisation or within an industrial research setting.
You will need to look for postdoctoral projects which align with your specialist area of chemical engineering. Experience of conducting laboratory experiments within the area of the research group would be essential for any type of chemical engineering research position.
Research projects and activities tend to be fixed-term contracts, so it’s likely that you’ll complete a few postdoc projects before being considered for promotion to senior research associate/fellow or lecturer/senior lecturer.
Working as a Chemical Engineering Researcher
As a chemical engineering researcher, you’ll spend most of your time in a laboratory, setting up experiments, recording results and using highly technical equipment.
The scope of chemical engineering research is huge, so you may be working with engineers and scientists to research anything from biofuel technology to the mass production of vaccines.
Popular chemical engineering research areas include:
- Petroleum engineering
- Low carbon energy/green hydrogen
- Biomedical engineering
- Industrial biotechnology
- Environmental management
- Fluid mechanics
- Nuclear engineering
- Computational chemical engineering
The day-to-day life of a chemical engineering researcher depends on your specialist area and the type of project you’re involved in.
You could be working in a multi-disciplinary team of engineers and scientists in a university, research foundation, in the health and medical sector or in industry. If you’re undertaking research at a university, there will most likely be some teaching duties involved.
- Conducting lab-based experiments and analysis of results
- Contributing to research and performing complex data tasks
- Using highly specialised computational equipment
- Working within a multi-disciplinary team
- Collaborating with project partners and chemical engineering industries
- Delivery of workshops and demonstrations to students
- Documenting research outcomes and development of manuscripts for publication
Where to find jobs
Whether you’re an early career researcher or have more experience already under your belt, you’ll find that the demand for specialists in chemical engineering research is high.
Research jobs are available across multiple sectors, settings and disciplines, with a particular focus on the environment and sustainability, catalysis and reaction engineering, oil and gas and biotechnology/biomedicine.
Chemical engineering research projects are generally well-funded in the UK, through both public bodies and in partnership with chemical engineering industries. To find out more about the types of research projects currently receiving funding visit UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).
If you choose to work as a researcher at a university, here are some of the roles you may come across during your search:
- Research assistant
- Research/laboratory technician
- Postdoctoral Research Engineer or Scientist
- Research Associate/Fellow
- Lecturer/Senior Lecturer
Find chemical engineering research jobs here
Salaries in engineering research vary depending on the field and specific research activities of the university. However, as a general rule, postdoctoral researchers and research associates can expect to start on a salary of around £30,000 to £39,999 p.a.
Most engineering research jobs require candidates to have a PhD. If you’re a graduate or have just finished a Master’s in chemical engineering or related subject, you might be looking to pursue your research interests at a higher level.
Demand for specialist researchers in chemical engineering has increased exponentially in the last decade, so related PhD studentships are widely available worldwide. A PhD takes around 3-5 years to complete; most are fully funded and come with a stipend in the range of £15,000 and £17,000 p.a.
You can find current PhD studentships in fields related to chemical engineering here.
- Academic jobs in Chemical Engineering
- Lecturing jobs in Chemical Engineering
- Senior-level academic jobs in Chemical Engineering
- Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE)