Chemical Engineer Mataaro Matū

Chemical engineers design, develop and operate equipment and processes used to manufacture chemicals and products.

BE (Hons) graduates who meet requirements (usually around five or six years of work experience) may apply to Engineering New Zealand to gain registration as a Chartered Professional Engineer (CPEng).

Chemical engineers may do some or all of the following:

  • research and develop or improve designs for factory chemical processes
  • research and develop new materials and procedures to make production processes more efficient
  • select materials and equipment to be used in factory processes
  • examine the effects of industrial processes on the environment
  • develop methods to control pollution
  • study the efficiency and cost of factories and associated equipment
  • prepare and present reports and proposals
  • manage technicians and operating staff.

Physical Requirements

Chemical engineers need to have good eyesight and hand–eye co-ordination.

Useful Experience

Useful experience for chemical engineers includes:

  • work experience or internship with companies that use chemical engineering processes
  • project management or supervisory experience.

Personal Qualities

Chemical engineers need to be:

  • careful and safety-conscious
  • able to work well in a team and unsupervised
  • analytical and accurate, with an eye for detail
  • patient and methodical
  • good at problem solving and decision making
  • able to work well under pressure.


Chemical engineers need to have knowledge of:

  • process engineering
  • chemistry, biochemistry and biotechnology
  • environmental issues
  • maths and physics.

Chemical engineers working in the food industry also need to have knowledge of food hygiene and microbiology.


Chemical engineers:

  • usually work regular business hours
  • work in factories, laboratories and offices.

Chemical Engineers can earn around $100K per year.

Chances of getting a job as a Chemical Engineer are good due to a shortage of people interested in this type of work.

Pay for chemical engineers varies depending on skills, experience, qualifications and the industry they work in.

  • Chemical engineers usually earn an average of $100,000 a year.
  • Team leaders earn an average of $120,000.
  • Chemical engineering managers earn an average of $160,000.

Source: Engineering New Zealand, 'Remuneration Survey 2021 Snapshot', 2022.

People working in the petrochemical sector usually get paid more than those in other sectors. 

Source: IChemE and research, 2020.

Chemical engineers may move into management or project management positions. They may also become consultants at engineering consulting firms, or set up their own consultancies. Some chemical engineers may work at polytechnics or universities as lecturers.

Chemical engineers may specialise in certain industry areas such as:

  • biochemicals
  • food processing
  • materials and manufacturing
  • petroleum or petrochemicals
  • pharmaceuticals.

Years Of Training

3-4 years of training required.

To become a chemical engineer you need to have a four-year Bachelor of Engineering or Bachelor of Engineering Honours degree specialising in any of the following:

  • biochemical
  • bioprocessing
  • biotechnology
  • chemical and materials
  • chemical and process
  • chemical technology
  • materials and process.

Employers in the food manufacturing industry also accept a three-year Bachelor's degree in any of the following:

  • food process engineering
  • food science
  • food technology.

To work in research and development a higher degree, such as a Master of Engineering or relevant PhD, is required.

Chemical Engineer