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Overview - Preparation - Day in the Life - Earnings - Employment - Industries - Professional Development - Career Path Forecast - Professional Organizations

Professional Development
Learning is a life-long endeavor. Advances in technology are constantly changing chemical engineers' tools -- it's been estimated that the half-life of an engineer's technical skills ranges from three to seven years. Actively pursuing professional development opportunities in and out of the work environment can expand your abilities and career options.

You, not your company, are responsible for maximizing your career advancement opportunities. Take advantage of on-the-job or cross-department training programs, participate in a mentor program, and get involved with special projects and task force activities. Volunteer with a local organization or school, read industry and professional publications, and participate in professional associations. Always keep current on the job market and trends.

One of the most effective ways to learn about a profession is to speak with someone already working in your field of interest. This might include a chemical engineering faculty member, a family friend or family member who is employed as a chemical engineer, a chemical engineer employed by a local company, alumni of your college or university, or a contact made through a professional society, such as AIChE. Finding a mentor to talk with, ask questions of, and network through, can be effectively done as early as high school. A mentor could:
  • tell you about his/her job responsibilities
  • answer questions about his/her work or industry
  • help you find a summer internship or job opening
  • provide input on your projects
  • give you exposure to the workplace
  • introduce you to other professionals in the field
  • make you aware of resources you may not have access to at school
  • guide you in developing skills and qualities that employees seek

Networking is the single best way to find a job and is a valuable professional development tool. Networking is a two-way street that can put you in touch with possible mentors, employers, summer internship providers, graduate school professors, and peer professionals; but you must also be ready, and actively look, to return the favor. Networking is communicating with the purpose of achieving a career-related goal. It is not asking for a job. It is asking for advice and suggestions on areas that may include employment opportunities. Look out for possible contacts and remember to reciprocate when the time comes.

A professional engineer's license is required of all engineering-related expert witnesses in legal proceedings, faculty members at some state universities, for advancement to senior engineering positions by some government agencies and industry employers, and consultants in private practice. It can also add credibility to a manufacturer's work. Becoming registered as a professional engineer has advantages, but the process requires additional tests and takes at least four years. You should understand the benefits of licensure, and should you decide it is important, begin working toward it as soon as possible. The Principles and Practice of Engineering exam can be taken after four years of experience. The exam tests the engineer's ability to apply his or her education and experience to the solution of engineering problems.

Defining success and happiness is best left to you. Starting early to determine what is important, however, will enable you to put yourself into a successful position. What you do, where you live, who you work with, your work environment, how much money you make, possibilities to advance, opportunities to travel -- these are issues to consider seriously. Be honest with yourself, then work toward putting yourself in a successful situation.

Note: Some resources in this section are provided by the US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

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