Male and female undergraduate students working in chemical engineering lab

What is Chemical Engineering?

Chemical engineering is a broad discipline that encompasses many different scientific principles in engineering and technology. Chemical engineers apply the principles of chemistry, biology, and physics to solve problems involving the production of chemicals, fuel, drugs, food and energy solutions. They are involved in a wide range of industries that includes:

  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Alternative Fuels
  • Healthcare
  • Manufacturing
  • Polymers
  • Environmental Health and Safety
  • Biotechnology
  • Food Processing
  • Advanced Materials
  • and many more!

Within these industries, chemical engineers rely on their knowledge of mathematics and science—particularly chemistry—to overcome technical problems safely and economically. In addition to their contributions in these fields, chemical engineers often apply their skills in law, education, and finance careers.

How is chemical engineering different than chemistry?

Chemistry is a core subject in chemical engineering, but for many chemical engineers the emphasis is in engineering, which means turning bench-top operations in the lab into industrial-scale operations that produce pounds per minute, safely, reliably, and profitably.

Where do chemical engineers work?

Penn State runs one of the largest university-based career fairs in the country. Large and small companies visit each year, seeking to hire new graduates. They represent a wide variety of industries, from petrochemicals and industrial chemicals, to consumer products, and even Wall Street.

Our graduates have gone to work for the following companies, in addition to many others:

  • Chevron
  • The DOW Chemical Company
  • Westinghouse
  • ExxonMobil
  • DuPont
  • Kimberly-Clark Corporation
  • Arkema
  • Air Products and Chemicals, Inc.
  • Frito-Lay
  • Procter & Gamble
  • Croda
  • IBM
  • Microsoft
  • Schlumberger
  • ConocoPhillips
  • Merck
  • GlaxoSmithKline
  • Mainstream Engineering Corp.
  • BASF
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb

*Information compiled from Penn State chemical engineering graduate exit survey, spring 2019 and Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2019-20 Edition, Chemical Engineers at (visited 06-08-2020).



The Penn State Department of Chemical Engineering, established in 1948, is recognized as one of the largest and most influential chemical engineering departments in the nation.

The department is built upon the fundamentals of academic integrity, innovation in research, and commitment to the advancement of industry.

Department of Chemical Engineering

121 Chemical and Biomedical Engineering Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802

Phone: 814-865-2574