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Process Engineering / Chemical Engineering

Forschung TU Darmstadt
Foto: TU Darmstadt/ Katrin Binner

Chemical or process engineering is the engineering of material conversion. On the basis of their knowledge of science and mathematics, chemical and process engineers develop functioning, economic and environmentally-friendly processes to convert materials.


In other words: chemical and process engineers deal with biological, chemical and physical processes. They crush, clean, mix, separate and ferment raw materials, and they design plants that control these processes. Chemical and process engineers “invent” consumer goods from fuel to fruit yoghurt.


What is the difference between chemical engineering and process engineering?

The difference between chemical engineering and process engineering lies in the emphasis of the degree course: while chemical engineers concentrate mainly on chemical processes, process engineers deal primarily with the plants needed for this, their design and technical conditions. To discover more about the weighting of the individual degree programs it is worth looking at the individual study regulations.


What qualities are required?

Apart from having a good grasp of natural science you should above all enjoy experimenting. As laboratory practical work is an essential part of the program, you should also be able to work carefully and responsibly, and not be allergic to common laboratory chemicals. In addition the ability to work in a team can contribute to the success of your studies.


What does the degree course look like?

Chemical engineering or process engineering is an interdisciplinary science comprising elements of mechanical engineering, chemistry and technical physics. The first semesters are devoted to foundation courses in the natural sciences – frequently in the form of lectures accompanied by problem classes. The main focus is on mathematics, chemistry and physics, and especially on technical implementation and operational requirements.
Typical foundation courses include:
Mathematics, chemistry, biology, physics, information technology, physical chemistry, electrical engineering and materials science, mechanics, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, and measurement and control engineering.

In laboratory practicals, which are often held during the semester break, students can put the processes they have learnt into practice.

In the higher semesters of the bachelor’s degree course students select one or two specialisations. These could include:

  • Chemical engineering
  • Food technology
  • Systems engineering
  • Plastics technology
  • Environmental technology
  • etc.


What do chemical and process engineers do after they graduate?

Due to their broad knowledge of the natural sciences, chemical and process engineers are in demand by the chemical and pharmaceutical industry in areas ranging from environmental protection and the food industry to plant construction. In the oil industry, for example, they supervise refineries, in the cosmetics industry they make sure that skin creams do not go mouldy even without preservatives or that nail varnish is long-lasting.

Chemical and process engineers often work in projects with mechanical engineers, materials scientists or electro-technical engineers. Here process engineers often have to keep a good overview of the work.

According to estimates of the Association of German Engineers (VDI), some 40 percent of process engineers work in production. About 30 percent are in plant design and roughly 15 percent in research. With chemical engineers this proportion is higher: between 40 and 50 percent work in research and development.

Further Information:

For further information on studying chemical engineering / process engineering visit: