Chemical engineering and mechanical engineering are two interrelated branches of engineering. While mechanical engineers focus on creating mechanical tools, machines and systems, chemical engineers create and design new products, processes and systems that involve chemical or biological transformations.
But can a chemical engineer work as a mechanical engineer? The answer is yes, depending on the job description and tasks.
Comparison between Chemical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering
While chemical engineering and mechanical engineering share some similarities, they also have several differences. The following table compares the two engineering branches, highlighting their similarities and differences:
|Aspect||Chemical Engineering||Mechanical Engineering|
|Focus||Chemical reactions and processes||Mechanical tools, machines, and systems|
|Subjects||Thermodynamics, transport phenomena, kinetics, mass and energy balances, process modeling and control, reactor design and analysis, process safety and environmental control, material sciences||Mechanics, materials science, kinematics, thermodynamics, robotics, control systems, automation, acoustical engineering|
|Skills||Analytical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, attention to detail, communication, teamwork, time management||Problem-solving, creativity, design, mathematical analysis, attention to detail, communication, teamwork, time management|
|Career Scope||Chemical process engineer, process control engineer, product/process development engineer, plant engineer, research and development engineer, environmental engineer, quality control engineer, engineering consultant, chemical plant manager||Mechanical design engineer, project engineer, manufacturing engineer, research and development engineer, automotive engineer, systems engineer, robotics engineer, aerospace engineer, acoustical engineer, mechatronics engineer, engineering consultant, mechanical project manager|
|Salary Range||$65,000 – $150,000 per year||$70,000 – $150,000 per year|
Can a Chemical Engineer Work as a Mechanical Engineer?
Yes. Depending on the job requirements and tasks, a chemical engineer can apply for a mechanical engineering position. While chemical engineering focuses on chemical processes and reactions, mechanical engineering focuses on mechanical tools, machines, and systems. However, the two engineering branches share some core concepts and principles such as thermodynamics, mechanics, and material sciences.
What Skills Does a Chemical Engineer Need to Work as a Mechanical Engineer?
Chemical engineers who wish to work as mechanical engineers must possess several skills including:
- Problem solving
- Attention to detail
- Analytical thinking
- Mathematical analysis and modeling
- Time management
- Mechanical design and manufacturing skills
- Knowledge of mechanical systems and tools
What Kind of Mechanical Engineering Jobs Can a Chemical Engineer Pursue?
Chemical engineers can apply for several mechanical engineering jobs, depending on their skills, experience, and interests. Some of the most popular mechanical engineering jobs for chemical engineers include:
- Mechanical design engineer
- Manufacturing engineer
- Systems engineer
- Research and development engineer
- Aerospace engineer
- Automotive engineer
- Mechatronics engineer
- Robotics engineer
- Acoustical engineer
Are There Any Differences in Salary for Chemical Engineers Working as Mechanical Engineers?
There is no significant difference in salaries for chemical engineers working as mechanical engineers compared to those specialized in chemical engineering. However, the salary range may vary based on the level of experience, education, industry, and engineering role. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for chemical engineers was $108,770 in May 2020, while that for mechanical engineers was $89,180.
Chemical and mechanical engineers have different focuses, but they also share some similarities in core principles and concepts. While chemical engineers design and develop chemical products, processes and systems, mechanical engineers create mechanical tools, machines, and systems. Chemical engineers can work as mechanical engineers if they possess the required skills, experience, and knowledge of mechanical systems and tools. Some of the mechanical engineering jobs for chemical engineers include mechanical design engineer, manufacturing engineer, and systems engineer. There is no significant difference in salaries for chemical engineers working as mechanical engineers compared to those specialized in chemical engineering.