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Is a Career in Chemical Engineering Low Stress?

Dec. 20, 2022
Our job satisfaction and salary survey points to happy engineers, but the job isn’t without its challenges.

A recent post by Wealth of Geeks, and shared on WRAL Techwire, listed a job as a chemical engineer as one of the top 10 low-stress careers that pay more than $100K a year. 

Long hours may not necessarily mean a job is stressful, but in our annual Job Satisfaction and Salary Survey, many of our respondents each year complain that while the pay is great, the workload and long hours certainly are not ideal. In fact, here's what a few of our respondents had to say in this year’s survey about their “low-stress” jobs:

“[Our salary is] pretty good on paper, but not so much when counting the extra hours we are putting in to get the workload covered.”

“Current lack of tech talent means those who are working have an extreme workload.” “Compensation and benefits are quite good but the workload is not manageable and little recognition of extra effort put in to meet the demands.”

“I recently moved from a specialty chemical manufacturing company, where I was in a supervisory position, getting calls on nights and weekends and the workload was untenable, to a soap manufacturer as an individual contributor, as such, I took a pay cut. This is hard to bear having experience pay discrimination throughout my career.”

“The pandemic has made my workload increase as now I spend more time and effort on the logistics side of my job.”

Some survey participants even warned potential recruits when giving them advice about a career in chemical engineering:

“Prepare for long hours and be realistic about deadlines.”

“Be prepared to work long hours, weekends and holidays. You will be away from home a lot.”

“Hard work, long days, failure, learning and dedication are a must to advance within an organization and your career. Learn everything about your job and those jobs around you. Once you establish yourself, you can cruise. Until then, you aren't entitled to anything.”

The Wealth of Geeks article doesn’t say where they got their data to determine chemical engineering as #7 on the list of low-intensity work, or how they arrived at $105,500 for the average salary, which seems lower than current industry salary surveys. The lack of transparency leaves me a bit skeptical on its accuracy. Other careers sharing the list primarily are in research or academia.

The article also defined what chemical engineers do as: “chemical engineers work to design chemical plant equipment and devise processes used to manufacture products like gasoline, plastic and cement. They also outline procedures to keep people safe when they are working in close proximity to chemicals.” By this definition, chemical engineers do appear to have a low-stress job, but anyone can tell you from our salary survey it is anything but.

The good news is, despite reports of long hours, most chemical engineers truly love what they do. Just take a look at our annual job satisfaction and salary survey results, where 92% of our respondents report their happy with their jobs.

What do you think? Do you agree with chemical engineering being on the list of low-stress jobs? Or is this job not for the meek? Having conducted our salary survey for over a decade, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Email me at [email protected].

About the Author

Amanda Joshi | Managing Editor

Amanda Joshi has more than 18 years of experience in business-to-business publishing for both print and digital content. Before joining Chemical Processing, she worked with Manufacturing.net and Electrical Contracting Products. She’s a versatile, award-winning editor with experience in writing and editing technical content, executing marketing strategy, developing new products, attending industry events and developing customer relationships. 

Amanda graduated from Northern Illinois University in 2001 with a B.A. in English and has been an English teacher. She lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband and daughter, and their mini Aussiedoodle, Riley. In her rare spare time, she enjoys reading, tackling DIY projects, and horseback riding.

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