Masters in Chemical Engineering

Chemical Engineering is aimed at transforming raw materials into useful products by studying their chemical processes and composition. It finds application in a wide range of sectors like construction, petrochemicals, paper, cosmetics, food processing, microelectronics, speciality chemicals and fertilizers, to name just a few. Production, design and transformation of energy and materials are at the heart of chemical engineering.
Even though it established itself as a separate discipline only in the 19th century, it has evolved pretty much as a universal discipline since every material has a chemical composition and structure and is involved in or involves various chemical processes.  
Chemical Engineering master’s degree draws from a vast array of pure and applied sciences. It involves the use of principles of life sciences, physics, mathematics and economics besides chemistry. Further, chemical engineers usually do not operate in isolation but work in close association with nuclear engineers, biomedical engineers, process and control engineers, etc.
Chemical engineers can also be found working with design engineers and project engineers in designing industrial plants for industries that involve chemical processes. They decide and also ensure the safety of the functioning of the plants. They also team up with process engineers in industrial or manufacturing units that involve chemical processes to design processes, select appropriate equipment and ensure efficiency. Many sectors that involve fluid dynamics, energy transfer and mass transfer also demand for graduates with a Master degree in chemical engineering.

What are the main areas of study in a master’s degree in Chemical Engineering?

The course structure of a Master degree in Chemical Engineering can vary vastly depending upon the specialization track chosen. However, like every other discipline, there are few core courses that most chemical engineering programs will cover. Students should see that they choose the best Best course for masters in Chemical Engineering from the electives bundle offered to them. Going by the trend, these may include chemical reaction engineering, polymers, chemical thermodynamics, applied mathematics for chemical engineering and principles of catalysis.

What are the main Masters in Chemical Engineering requirements?

Students who have not studied science or engineering at the bachelor’s level would not be able to apply for a master’s in chemical engineering. The following list indicates the main criteria for Eligibility for MS in Chemical Engineering:

Bachelor’s Degree Requirements

Having a bachelor’s degree in CE or a closely-related field could be advantageous for those applying for a master’s program in Chemical Engineering. Some universities might however also entertain applications from graduates from any science discipline provided that they have done the coursework required for CE. In such a case, students would be expected to have completed courses in calculus (including multivariate calculus), differential equations, organic and physical chemistry.

Other Requirements

TOEFL and IELTS

About 60% of the top 20 universities in the world for CE are situated in the English speaking world. The remaining ones too receive a good number of international students and offer English as the medium of instruction. This makes good scores in English language ability tests a necessity for application in most cases. It is always better to check the cut-off scores in the Masters in Chemical Engineering admission requirements section of the official university websites before applying. Also, the test scores should not be more than 2 years old.

GRE 

GRE scores become more relevant in cases where students have not done their bachelor’s in chemical engineering or chemistry. However, it needs to be noted that it is not a necessary prerequisite for application in all cases. Wherever GRE scores are considered, good scores will definitely be an advantage. Institutions have different methods of counting the GRE scores. In some places, total scores are taken into account, while others place a differential weight on the scores from each component. If a subject-specific GRE score is also required, then students must note that the GRE subject for CE is Chemistry.  

Undergraduate GPA

Students with a GPA of less than 3.0 can have trouble getting accepted for a Master of Engineering in Chemical Engineering program. Applications with a GPA higher than or equal to 3.5 are normally preferred in most departments.

Letters of Recommendation and Statement of Purpose

Three letters of recommendation are asked by most institutions. Besides, a statement of purpose could also be necessary.

Depending upon the evolution of industries, chemical engineering has branched into a number of specializations over the decades. All the leading departments that provide masters in chemical engineering courses offer a number of specialization tracks. Here is a List of Top Masters in Chemical Engineering Specializations:

1. Petroleum Engineering

Petroleum Engineering deals with the exploration and extraction of petroleum and the production of about 300 products that are derived from it in an economic and sustainable manner. It involves the use of principles of chemistry, physics, geology, fluid mechanics and thermodynamics. Petroleum Engineers evaluate potential oil and natural gas reserves, look after drilling processes, implement recovery models and design surface collection and treatment facilities. Some of the main courses that this specialization covers are petroleum properties and phase equilibria, petroleum formations, petroleum production operations, pressure transient testing, well drilling and logging, Reservoir Engineering, reserves estimation, etc. Petroleum Engineers are usually employed by petrochemical companies as researchers, petroleum scientists, reservoir engineers, drilling engineers and geotechnical engineers, etc.

2. Polymer Science and Engineering

Polymer Science and Engineering is concerned with the design, analysis and innovation of polymers. It covers areas such as petrochemicals, polymerization, characteristics of polymers, structure of polymers, properties and compounds of polymers and processing of polymers. Thermoplastics, elastomers and thermosets are some of the main concerns of this specialization, while plastic, rubber and fiber are usually the materials that fall under its scope. Students would be expected to learn courses around the themes like Polymer Reactions, Polymer Systems, Colloidal and Interfacial phenomenon, Nanoscale Science and Polymers, Biomolecules and Pharmaceutical Solids, etc. They find jobs as Materials Engineers, Polymer Development Expert and Polymer Processing Engineer etc.       

3. Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering

Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering deals with the extraction of hydrocarbons present in the earth’s surface. It also deals with the economic production of petroleum and natural gas thereafter. This specialization mainly focuses on the designing of wells and processes involved in extraction. Additionally, it is also concerned with the maintenance of drilling systems and transportation of oil and gas, besides evaluation of the quality of hydrocarbons before or after extraction. Students of this specialization can expect to study reservoir simulation, fluid flows, hydrocarbon formation evaluation, environmental issues in petroleum extraction, etc. They may find jobs with petrochemical corporations as drilling engineers, reservoir engineers, production engineers, natural gas engineers, Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) process engineers, etc.

4. Smart Oilfield Technologies

It is one of the unique specializations under MS in Chemical Engineering or MS in Petroleum Engineering areas. Very few universities offer this specialization which is said to be the future of oil exploration, extraction and production. It deals with the digitization and automation of the processes involved in petroleum engineering. It involves the use of big data, software, sensors and wireless communication to manage offshore extraction, enhance productivity and manage processes at hundreds of wells from a single location. It also aims at the speedy resolution of glitches. Students of this specialization study field automation, plant automation, petroleum data analytics, closed-loop reservoir management, onshore and offshore oilfield operations and information technology and robotics for smart oilfields. They can work in firms concerned with oil transportation, drilling, mining, extraction or production after graduating. Experts consider it to be one of Masters in Chemical Engineering specializations of the future.

5. Natural Gas Engineering

Natural Gas Engineering is concerned with the extraction of natural gas and natural gas liquids from reservoirs. Natural Gas Engineers study and analyze the geology, explore the location of wells, characterize wells for their performance, develop injection methods and ensure that the history of reservoirs and characteristics of fluids extracted are taken into account in the production process. This specialization also involves various simulation methods and training to work with unconventional subsurface natural gas resources like traps and pockets. Students learn about reservoir engineering, natural gas production and distribution, natural gas processing, reservoir characterization, separation process, two-way flow, pressure transient analysis, cryogenics, Rheology, etc. They find placement as LNG planning and design engineer, pipeline directors, gas system planners, natural gas field experts, natural gas construction and maintenance engineer, etc.

6. Petroleum Reservoir Systems

Petroleum Reservoir Systems specialization is mainly for those who have a prior experience of working in the petroleum industry and wish to gain expertise in the geological, geophysical and reservoir related aspects of petroleum engineering. Students of this specialization are expected to study topics like well logging, formation evaluation and exploration and development related to petroleum engineering and geophysical engineering fields. They may work as petroleum reservoir engineers, reservoir simulation engineers, petroleum geophysics experts, and geomechanics engineers after specializing in this track.

7. Geochemistry

Geochemistry is the study of concentration, distribution and movement of chemical elements of earth’s surface and its atmosphere. It also deals with the chemical processes happening within the earth’s surface and its atmosphere. A geochemistry specialization deals with the chemistry of rocks and minerals and movement into the soil and water systems. It finds its application in drilling of oil, measuring environmental changes, mining and managing waste disposal. Students of this specialization will learn about nucleosynthesis, geochemical bonding, geochemical cycles, mineral chemistry and biogeochemistry. They would also learn methods of geochemistry, environmental geochemistry and aqueous geochemistry besides organic geochemistry of fossil fuels and geomicrobiology. Students get placed as geochemical engineers, geoscientists, geochemists, hydrogeologists and environmental geochemists etc.

8. Environmental Chemistry and Technology

Unlike geochemistry which is focused on natural chemical processes, environmental chemistry deals with the study of chemical processes in the earth’s environment that occur because of human intervention. The study of chemical components in soil, groundwater, surface water and air is its core concern. It is aimed at measuring the contaminants and their impact on ecology and human health and suggesting corrective measures. Students of environmental chemistry and technology specialization study the transformation of organic compounds in the atmosphere; the application of instrumentation like spectroscopy and microscopy; isotope biogeochemistry; soil chemistry; watershed and wetland hydrology; mixing in coastal environments; soil microbial ecology; toxicology and environmental statistics. Students of this specialization find jobs as environmental chemists, environmental assessment analysts, water treatment specialists, chemical waste management experts, etc.    

9. Chemical and Materials Engineer

A Chemical and Materials Engineering specialization prepares students to develop alternative energy solutions, devise pollution control strategies, develop new membranes, design new drug delivery processes and expand the utility base of polymers, ceramics, and other chemical products. This specialization is focused on studying the chemical properties of materials and modifying them through appropriate chemical processes for innovative solutions. Students have the option of picking courses around the themes such as composite fabrication, polymer chemistry, ceramic processing, chemical structure and properties of materials, chemistry of nanomaterials, chemical synthesis and processing of advanced materials, and colloids and nanoparticles. Students of this specialization find placement as ceramic engineer, polymer materials scientist, materials and chemical scientist, materials and process engineer, etc.

10. Textile Chemistry

Textile Chemistry specialization deals with the chemical structure and processes of production of textile fibers. It is concerned with three broad aspects, namely dyeing and finishing, fiber and polymers, and blending of textiles which is an intersection of chemical and materials science. Environmental and medical sciences are the new areas that are demanding textile chemistry experts. Students of this specialization will get an opportunity to learn courses around colour science, fiber formation, dye chemistry, textile polymer science, textile testing and evaluation, smart textiles and advanced organic chemistry. With this specialization, graduates can find employment in job profiles like textile chemist, textile engineer, textile technologist, textile evaluation technician, etc.

Global Rank

College Name Popularity Rank Global Rank Total Tuition Fees Deadline Annual RA+TA Unsecured Loan Offer Secured Loan Offer
Columbia University 1 18 96864 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
University of Florida 2 178 60260 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
University of Southern California 3 132 61805 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
Carnegie Mellon University 4 47 94600 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, School of Engineering 5 651-700 NA Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
Cornell University 6 14 59000 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
University of Colorado Boulder 7 182 66276 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
North Carolina State University 8 263 50810 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
University at Buffalo, SUNY 9 318 45300 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
University of California, San Diego 10 38 53088 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
The Johns Hopkins University 11 17 107480 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
Purdue University 12 105 58264 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
Northeastern University 13 346 47070 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
University of Michigan 14 21 99016 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
University of Pennsylvania 15 19 86264 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
Georgia Institute of Technology 17 10 29700 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
University of California, Berkeley 16 27 57136 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 18 1 103040 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
Northwestern University 19 28 108240 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
New Jersey Institute of Technology 20 801-1000 59920 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
Stanford University 21 2 108030 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
Texas A&M University 22 195 67333 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
Arizona State University 23 209 60396 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
University of Pittsburgh 24 142 88948 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
University of Illinois at Chicago 25 207 56336 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
The Ohio State University 26 86 68128 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
Missouri University of Science and Technology 27 651-700 50164 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
University of Maryland, College Park 28 29 46440 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
William Marsh Rice University 29 NA NA Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
Syracuse University 30 501-550 48600 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
Stevens Institute of Technology 31 651-700 71920 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
The Pennsylvania State University 32 93 76932 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
NYU Tandon School of Engineering 33 NA 53850 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
University of Houston 34 601-650 36612 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
University of Rochester 35 186 49620 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
The University of Texas at Austin 36 67 37884 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
Texas A&M University - Kingsville 37 NA NA Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
University of Delaware 38 421-430 54810 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
Michigan Technological University 39 551-600 34290 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
California Institute of Technology 40 4 104466 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
University of California, Los Angeles 41 33 53088 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
University of California, Irvine 42 164 22884 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
University of Notre Dame 43 216 105492 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
University of Virginia 44 173 55548 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 45 69 68660 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
University of Minnesota -Twin Cities 46 163 42000 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
Yale School of Engineering & Applied Science 47 NA 84200 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
Iowa State University 48 471-480 51428 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
Wayne State University 49 461-470 42720 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
University of California, Davis 50 118 57346 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute 51 364 105100 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
University of Cincinnati 52 501-550 49064 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University 53 367 53648 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
Vanderbilt University 54 212 59010 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
University of California, Santa Barbara 55 134 55344 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
Princeton University 56 13 102500 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
Stony Brook University 57 382 45300 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
Clemson University 58 701-750 45952 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
Illinois Institute of Technology 59 395 56700 Log in Log in Log in 1.5 Cr, Interest Rate starts @8.85%
Source: GyanDhan's analysis, partner data & university's website. While deadlines are latest, other figures are as of 2018. Double-check deadlines from the university's website

Students that complete their Master of Science or a Master of engineering in Chemical Engineering are most likely to be placed as the following according to the current trends:

1. Process Engineer

Chemical (Process) Engineers have to design, develop, modify new processes that are involved in the production of oil, textiles, special chemicals, pharmaceuticals, polymers, food, ceramics, etc. Production of anything that involves chemical processes as the dominant component in all tasks would require chemical process engineers. Often the placement would be based on the area of the student’s specialization. Their chief responsibilities would be designing and testing new processes with the use of process simulation software, supervision of plant operations, assessing safety and environmental issues, installation of equipment and troubleshooting the problems that hinder the pace or progress of processes.

2. Reservoir Engineer

Reservoir Engineers work in the oil and natural gas sector. Their chief responsibilities include surveying and testing wells, using computer modeling and imaging software for connecting drilling and fracturing to the area of deposits, chalking out drilling plans, surveying of reservoirs, monitoring the health of reservoirs and studying their history. They also need to oversee the injection of water, steam, gases and chemicals to extract more oil. They could also be overseeing the installation and maintenance of drilling equipment. They often work with geosciences specialists to understand the geological formations that contain oil and natural gas.

3. Petroleum Engineer

Petroleum Engineers usually team up with geosciences experts to perform a number of duties. Their chief task is to design and develop methods and processes for the extraction of oil and natural gas. They are the ones who have to recommend drilling procedures while taking into account efficiency, cost, safety and returns. They have to oversee the drilling operations and their results so that equipment, tools and methods can be modified or replaced. Unlike reservoir engineers or smart oilfield technologists, Petroleum Engineers need to engage with all the aspects of drilling and production of hydrocarbons.

Chemical Engineering master’s is one of the degrees that is going to witness the broadening of its scope and growth in its demand. One of the reasons is that a number of processes associated with the chemical processes in key industries that employ chemical engineering talent like petrochemicals, textile, fertilizers and manufacturing are increasingly becoming dependent on artificial intelligence. On one hand, it will reduce the need for junior scientists and engineers, and on the other, these industries would become increasingly dependent on chemical engineering master’s with specialization/s. The growth in CE jobs is projected above the average at 8% till 2026 in the US. While the figure for Europe would be more or less the same, the demand is surely going to be greater in developing countries where MNCs and local corporations are expanding their operations. This would also lead to a hike in MS in Chemical Engineering salary.

The average annual salary range is already $72k to $108k. Those in the petrochemicals and oil and natural gas sectors get paid better than those in the pharmaceuticals or textile sector. CE salary has increased at about 1.5% in the recent past. Going by these trends, it is a wise decision to study MS in Chemical Engineering with a specialization even if the Masters in Chemical Engineering fees is slightly on the higher side. The formula here is simple, the greater the specialization in a particular area of chemical engineering, more the salary one can expect after graduating.

Global Rank Employability Range Salary Range
1-10 Log in Log in
11-25 Log in Log in
26-50 Log in Log in
51-100 Log in Log in
101-200 Log in Log in
201-500 Log in Log in
500+ Log in Log in
Source: GyanDhan's proprietary analysis


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