Chemical Engineering Technician

The Job and What's Involved

Chemical engineering, also known as process engineering, describes the processes that are used to turn raw materials, such as oil, into useful products such as fuel, plastics, textiles and cosmetics. It plays an important role in the design and production of all manufactured goods. Chemical engineering technicians support the work of chemical engineers. There are jobs in a number of fields including research and development, design, construction, operations and maintenance.

Because the applications of chemical engineering are so wide, chemical engineering technicians may work in a huge range of industry sectors including:

  • Chemical products
  • Petrol, oil and gas
  • Energy and power
  • Food and drink
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Textiles
  • Metallurgy
  • Water
  • Aerospace
  • Electronics
  • Mining and exploration
  • Agriculture
  • Paper
  • Cosmetics and other personal care products

Duties vary from industry to industry and job to job, but may include:

  • Setting up, operating and maintaining production equipment.
  • Carrying out experiments.
  • Monitoring and recording data.
  • Monitoring production processes, recording data and adjusting controls, if necessary.
  • Testing products.
  • Producing plans.
  • Supervising operatives and scheduling work.
  • Working as part of a team on the design of new plant and products.
  • Using computer models and simulations to translate laboratory formulae and discoveries into large-scale processes.

Technicians usually work in a team with engineers, other technicians and operatives.

Chemical engineering technicians working in laboratories and research establishments work around 37 hours a week. Those in other jobs may need to be flexible and may need to work longer hours, especially when meeting deadlines. Shift work and weekend working is required in some jobs. There may be some opportunities for part-time work.

Work environments vary. Depending on their field, technicians may spend time outdoors, on construction sites, factory floors, mineral processing installations and oil and gas explorations, or in laboratories and offices. Laboratory work is often carried out under sterile conditions.

It may be necessary to wear protective clothing such as overalls, gloves, goggles, hard hats and safety boots, depending on the work environment.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Around 250,000 people are employed in the chemical industry in the UK. There are opportunities in a wide range of sectors throughout the UK. Employers may be companies involved in oil and gas, chemical and allied products, food, energy and pharmaceuticals, and companies that design and construct production plant. Opportunities also exist with central government departments and government agencies. Employers range from large international companies and research organisations, to smaller companies.

Vacancies are advertised in local newspapers, Connexions centres and Jobcentre Plus offices, as well as on websites such as www.jobsinscience.com, and in magazines such as Chemistry World.

Education and Training

The majority of candidates enter this career though Advanced Apprenticeships. Applicants usually need a minimum of four to five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), or the equivalent, including English, maths and science or technology.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

Another entry route is with Level 3 qualifications such as A levels/H grades, BTEC national diplomas, City & Guilds, or SQA national units in engineering. Applicants to courses usually need four GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), or equivalent qualifications, in subjects including maths and science or technology.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Advanced Apprenticeships take between three and five years to complete. Training usually combines on-the-job training with day or block release to study at a local college or registered training centre. Advanced Apprentices work towards NVQ/SVQ Level 3. Trainees may be able to study for additional qualifications, including a BTEC national certificate or diploma, an SQA national certificate group award, or City & Guilds certificates.

After finishing training (which can form part of the Advanced Apprenticeship), technicians are encouraged to apply for Engineering Technician registration with the Engineering Council UK and, if successful, gain EngTech letters after their name.

To apply for EngTech status candidates must:

  • Become a member of one of the institutions which register engineering technicians (see the Engineering Council UK's website for a list)
  • Demonstrate that they have the necessary technical and personal competence, are committed to keeping these up to date, and acting in a professional and socially responsible manner.
  • Pass an assessment by practising engineering professionals.

Registration may be more straightforward for candidates who:
hold:

  • A BTEC National Certificate or Diploma in Engineering or Construction.
  • Hold a technical certificate as part of an Advanced Apprenticeship.
  • Hold an approved Level 3 NVQ/SVQ, or have followed a work-based learning route approved by a licensed professional engineering institution.

A Diploma will help you make a more informed choice about the type of learning that best suits you and about what kind of work or further study you may want to do afterwards.

Some employers offer opportunities for sponsorship for an HNC/HND, Foundation degree or degree course.

Technology changes quickly in this field, so it is important for chemical engineering technicians to keep their knowledge and skills up to date.

Featured Job Guide - Ambulance Technician

Ambulance Technician

As an ambulance technician you would respond to accident and emergency calls, as well as a range of planned and unplanned non-emergency cases. You would usually work in a team, providing support to a paramedic during the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of patients at the scene of an incident and during hospital transfers.

You may use life saving skills as part of your day-to-day work.

________________________________________________________________________________

Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A chemical engineering technician should:

  • Be good at chemistry and maths.
  • Understand engineering principles.
  • Have good spoken and written communication skills.
  • Be able to record and present data clearly and effectively.
  • Have a high level of computer literacy and be confident using computer-aided design packages.
  • Pay close attention to detail.
  • Have good problem-solving skills.
  • Be able to think analytically.
  • Be able to work well in a team and on their own.
  • Be safety conscious.
  • Have normal colour vision.

Your Long Term Prospects

Chemical engineering technicians who qualify for professional status (EngTech) may have a wider choice of career development options.

With further qualifications, such as an HNC/HND or degree, a technician may be able to work their way up to the position of engineer.

There may be opportunities to work overseas, sometimes in remote areas.

Get Further Information

Chemical Industries Association,
Kings Buildings, Smith Square, London SW1P 3JJ
Tel: 020 7834 3399
Website: www.cia.org.uk

The Energy Institute, 61 New Cavendish Street, London W1G 7AR
Tel: 020 7467 7100
Website: www.energyinst.org.uk

Engineering Council UK (ECUK), 246 High Holborn, London WC1V 7EX
Tel: 020 3206 0500
Website: www.engc.org.uk

Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE), Careers Liaison Department,
Davis Building, 165-189 Railway Terrace, Rugby CV21 8HQ
Tel: 01788 578214
Websites: www.whynotchemeng.com and www.icheme.org

Women's Engineering Society, The IET, Michael Faraday House,
Six Hills Way, Stevenage, Hertfordshire SG1 2AY
Tel: 01438 765506
Website: www.wes.org.uk

Other Related Jobs

Additional resources