A day in the life of a process engineer31 Jan, 20225 minutes
Let's examine what a career in process engineering looks like. Are process engineers i...
Let's examine what a career in process engineering looks like.
Are process engineers in demand?
In a word, yes. There are numerous sectors across multiple industries that require the input of a process engineer. That puts people who have the qualifications and experience in extremely high demand.
Because of the diversity of the role, you can decide which sector you’d like to work in. These could be within:
- Software development.
- Pharmaceutical (including biomedical).
- Material development.
It also means that you can move sideways into a different market should you choose without having to retrain. This gives you a lot more security than other career paths.
What does a process engineer do?
Essentially, process engineers transform raw materials into useable products and are involved in every touchpoint of creation, including:
- Optimisation of processes and machinery.
While similar to chemical engineering, a process engineer will be less focused on chemistry and more involved with the physics and maths of transformation.
What does the day-to-day role of a process engineer look like?
Before we dive into what you can expect day in, day out if you chose a career as a process engineer, let's outline the responsibilities you'll likely see in a job description for this position:
Process engineer responsibilities:
- Carrying out research and designing new equipment to be developed.
- Developing, constructing, and optimising industrial processes end-to-end (from ideation to certification).
- Managing time and cost constraints effectively.
- Making sure all products comply with external and internal regulations and protocols.
- Carrying out risk assessments of all equipment and processes in use.
- Writing reports based on data collected and presenting your findings to higher-ups.
What a typical working day looks like:
You can expect to work a nine-to-five either at a lab, facility or office, although this is certainly not a 'desk job.'
There will be occasions when a process engineer is called to an industrial plant or refinery to direct or monitor operations. If you're a fan of travel, this could be a 'best of both worlds' situation.
You may be working alongside mechanical engineers on the same project, so you can work as part of a team and solo.
Because of the different fields you can work in as a process engineer, it's a little more complicated to go through a typical working day as we've done in some of our other 'day in the life' posts.
However, we can say that you'll spend a significant amount of time checking the facility you're working at to ensure that everything is operating as it should.
If something isn't performing as expected, you'll start to investigate why. This could be through your own analysis or talking to other people within the company. If the problem is particularly dangerous, you'll need to think quickly, find the problem and solve it before things escalate.
When things are ticking over as they should, you’ll have the opportunity to design processes and projects in line with the businesses goals.
The one consistent thing for a process engineer is that no two days are the same.
What skills do you need to be a process engineer?
Process engineers may be in high demand, but you'll still need to showcase that you hold the right skills that make you a valuable asset to an employer. Required skillsets may differ slightly from company to company, but you won't go far wrong if you can demonstrate your aptitude in the following:
- Analytical and critical thinking.
- Commercial and business awareness.
- Attention to detail.
- Proficient problem-solving.
- Industry knowledge.
- IT and numeracy.
- Spatial reasoning.
If you can demonstrate these soft skills as well, you’ll stand out even more from your competition:
- Calm under pressure.
- Strong communication.
- Fantastic computer skills.
What qualifications do you need to be a process engineer?
Entry-level roles for process engineers will require a minimum graduate degree in chemical, industrial or manufacturing engineering. If you hold a postgraduate degree in any of these subjects, you'll be more enticing to employers.
If you don't hold any of the above qualifications, a degree in physics, chemistry, or mathematics may be sufficient to get your foot in the door.
If you're currently studying or are about to start a degree or postgraduate degree course, we'd also recommend scheduling some work experience if possible. Numerous companies will offer internships to emerging process engineers. If this is something you'd be interested in, please get in touch so we can keep you on our radar should an internship become available at one of the brands we work with.
How much does a process engineer earn?
Based on a UK process engineer's average wage, your first job could see a salary of between £20,000 and £30,000. Once established, your average salary should increase to £40,000. With experience, your annual salary could go up to £60,000, depending on the industry and location you operate in.
At MRL, we work with candidates across the world, so here’s what you could expect to earn, on average, as a process engineer in other countries:
Average process engineer salary
However, as always, please bear in mind that these figures will be influenced by locations within the country.
Despite industry averages within the US being reported at around $70k per year, the process engineers we place can expect to be offered between $70,000 to over $100,000 depending on seniority and experience.
Is it worth becoming a process engineer?
If you're looking for a hands-on job with the option to work in a variety of different sectors throughout your career, the ability to travel and have every day be different from the last, then yes, it's worth becoming a process engineer.
Whether you're about to graduate, have recently graduated, are looking for your next job or have already been climbing a career ladder in a different field and want to jump off and onto a process engineer ladder, we can help you.
We provide recruitment services in several markets and can introduce you to businesses that fit your goals and aspirations. Feel free to introduce yourself; we'd love to meet you.