Chemical Engineering Careers

“From atoms and molecules, to discoveries and products.” 

The increasing demand for commodities requires large-scale development of our country's fuel, mineral, and chemical industries. Chemical engineers are required to ''add value'' to these materials, and to optimize processes to make them competitive on a world-wide scale.

Traditionally, Chemical Engineering draws upon principles from mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology and economics; and then combines these ideas to transform low-value materials (chemicals) into high value ones (e.g. converting the simple ethylene molecule into that everyday plastic, polyethylene). In modern times, chemical engineering has adapted to the digital age in which computers now also feature prominently in every aspect of the work of a chemical engineer. 

Chemical engineers are also concerned with keys issues affecting society and humanity at large; they are involved in the development of advanced materials, finding solutions to the world’s energy problems, global warming, inventing new consumer products and then efficiently manufacturing them, developing novel ways to preserve the environment, and also in the development of new pharmaceutical drugs.

Opportunities abound in a diverse range of careers for graduates with a chemical engineering degree from UKZN, due to its excellent curriculum and quality of teaching. Our programme is accredited by the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA), meaning that when you graduate, you are eligible to register as a candidate engineer, which may lead to you being awarded professional engineer (PrEng) status.

What does it take to be a Chemical Engineer?
  The Role of Chemical Engineers in Society:
  • Good problem solving ability
  • Rational thinker
  • Lateral thinker
  • High level of curiosity
  • Forward thinking
  • Good communication and social skills
  • Independent thinker and doer
  • Responsible and ethical citizen

  • Drivers of the Industrial Age
  • Meet the core needs of a growing human society
  • Environmental protection
  • Add value to life
Possible careers paths/ employers:    Chemical Engineering specialist activities:
  • Petroleum-based products and crude-oil refining (e.g. Sasol, Sapref, Engen, PetroSA, Shell)
  • Mining and metallurgical engineering (Mintek, Anglo American Platinum, Richards Bay Minerals, BHP Billiton)
  • Paper and pulp (Sappi, Mondi, Nampak)
  • Fast-moving consumer goods (Proctor & Gamble, Unilever, Nestle)
  • Brewing and fermentation (SABMiller)
  • General chemicals (Merck, AECI)
  • Banking and finance (most financial institutions in South Africa)
  • Software (including games) development
  • Consulting firms

  • Process development and design
  • Project management and construction
  • Production management
  • Quality assurance, health, safety and environmental control
  • Research and development
  • Technical sales. 
  • Services and marketing
  • Process optimization and control
  • Plant trouble-shooting

Some famous Chemical Engineers:  

  • George Rosenkranz, Luis Miramontes and Carl Djerassi - Responsible for synthesising the first synthetic progesterone, which would go on to be used in the contraceptive pill 
  • Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch - Developed the Haber-Bosch process
  • Nicholas Leblanc - Production of soda ash (sodium carbonate) from sea salt
  • Bill and Bob Gore - Developed Teflon as an electrical wire insulator.
  • Donald Campbell, Homer Martin, Eger Murphree and Charles Tyson. - Develpoed the fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) unit
  • Victor Mills - Created disposable diapers and the Pampers brand
  • John Mckeen - Scale up production of penicillin
  • Csaba Horvath - Built the first high-performance liquid chromatograph.
  • Waldo Semon - Credited with inventing methods for making PVC useful

Exploring careers in Engineering

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