I am interested in chemical engineering but I am scared of career prospects

I am in the process of researching different engineering that best suits me. I love chemistry, physics, astronomy, and space exploration. I have also played the game Outlast: Whistleblower, where the protagonist is a software engineer who has to escape an insane asylum wherein a greedy, shady corporation tests nanotechnology on the less fortunate, which leads to everything backfiring and leading to several horrendous deaths, while the protagonist is hounded by the crazy enemies who wants to outright kill him or his supervisor who wants to keep everything in-house by also wanting to kill him.

So I am very concerned if my career choice narrows down to just working with shady, unethical large chemical companies who have numerous complaints against them, both from inside and outside of their organization. I am scared that a large, greedy corporation who only cares about the bottom line will only use me for my knowledge and intelligence, then discards me when they see fit or blackmails me into doing unethical things.

What other careers or jobs can I get into with chemical engineering that won’t harm people or the planet and will lead humans to a better future?

Not sure what playing a game has to do with anything but I know chemical engineers who are happy and love what they do. Seems like a lot of them are in plastics for some reason.

OP, you haven’t researched, if you still paint it this black and white. Have you even begin college, experienced what the sort of work is, in those fields? Playing some manufactured game is not real life.

My godson is in a grad che E program and what he’s involved with blows my mind. He’s going to walk out with his choice of jobs. NOT because he majored in X, but because he knows his stuff, is brilliantly qualified, and works hard. And he’s happy. No one chasing him on a screen, looking to blow him up. Get real.

I don’t know why you are worried. They haven’t yet discovered something that chemical engineers can’t do.

Folks, lay off the kid, he’s joking :slight_smile: There is a some truth to his concern, cf. glysophate, Dow Chemicals and the implants, Big Food, Big Oil etc. But that is true of any industry, especially, banking, Big Pharma and so on. As @lookingforward (and Common in the Microsoft commercial) pointed out, it’s what you do with it…

You fears are somewhat unfounded. Sure, big companies have done some pretty nasty stuff in the past. But from the specific cases I know about, the intentions were not to INTENTIONALLY do harm. The harmful consequences came later and were unknown at the time the product was sold, processes were used, etc.

Coverups were attempted in some cases, but most that I know of there was no attempt at coverup. In fact in one specific case that has made a lot of headlines, the company started the cleanup about 10 years before the problem was made public. Public intervention, IMHO, only slowed the cleanup down as everything now had to go thru all these public oversight committees who couldn’t agree on most things.

If an employee broke the law, then the long arm of the law came down on them. I have no personal knowledge where someone worked within the law and had the company do anything untoward to the person. That could have occurred but it is mostly in the movies, and not real life, that it happens.

The consequences for the company are too great, from both a legal and PR point of view, for a company to go after anyone for acting within the law.

Go after the career you want without fear. If you are asked to do something you are not comfortable with, speak up; and if they continue to want you to do something uncomfortable, just leave. There will always be another job with an ethical company out there.

Thank you HPuck35. I came here to seek help not ridicule. The first thing that came into mind when I saw chemical engineering were nasty chemicals. Am I to engineer such nasty chemicals when I graduate with chemical engineering? Or are there other things that I can do with chemical engineering?

Nope you can work for a non profit working on water purification in third world countries as an example. There are a number of other areas besides working with nasty chemicals that you can work in.

When I mean nasty chemicals, they are chemicals used for malicious ends without thought to what harm they can do to people or the planet. I don’t want to be part of the research and development that will be used for malicious ends by people in power. I don’t want to give them any more power to harm.

I am sure that some chem engineers deals with “nasty” chemicals but not with the intent of doing harm with them. There are processes out there that require “nasty” chemicals to work. My wife is an environmental engineer and her job is to see that those nasty chemicals are dealt with and disposed of properly. Most chemical engineers that I know deal with with common chemicals.

Would chemical engineering involve developing new ways to clean up those nasty chemicals? Or to develop a safer and cleaner alternatives to the chemicals that were used in the first place?

Kurt Vonnegut has a passage in “Breakfast of Champions” that is apropos to the OP question.

Perhaps we are all like Vonnegut’s yeast cells, and who knows to what end.

Are there any chemical engineers here who can weigh in what other things they can do with their degrees?

My DD graduated a couple of years ago in ChemE she currently works as an engineering consultant for various projects (mining, process controls, etc.)

Leaving aside the debate about the ratio of evil to non-evil ChemE employers… the way you describe your interests suggests to me that you should also be looking seriously at adjacent majors/fields like Materials Science. This would tilt more toward physics, physical chemistry, polymer science, and potentially nanotechnology, but you sound like that is well within your umbrella of interests (as opposed to some aspiring ChemE’s who lean more heavily toward chem/biochem).

For the sake of comparison, look at the major requirements of these four different potential majors at CWRU:
ChemE: http://bulletin.case.edu/schoolofengineering/chemicalengineering/#undergraduatetext
Materials Science/Engineering: http://bulletin.case.edu/schoolofengineering/materialsscienceengineering/#undergraduatetext
Polymer/Macromolecular Science/Engineering: http://bulletin.case.edu/schoolofengineering/macromolecularscieng/#undergraduatetext
Engineering Physics (with sub-concentration in any of the above): http://bulletin.case.edu/schoolofengineering/engineeringphysics/

There are quite a few high-tech, medical, sustainable-energy, and various other areas to work in, with these specialties, beyond the world of “chemical companies.” (In fact, materials might have more potential for something space-exploration related than chemical, though I’d defer to experts in either field on that point.) Do you specifically prefer ChemE or have you not looked closely at these other options yet?

My chem e major daughter just landed a co-op with a chemical polymer company with a cool health care division where she will be working.

For a while she was talking to organic food manufactures.

There are also companies that make and develop organic pesticides as alternatives to stuff like Roundup.

Looks of chem es work at bio tech companies. My daughter toured a company that makes medical meshes for stuff like hernia repairs.

We also know a chem e who runs an alcohol distillery.

Google “careers for chemical engineers” and you will get a wide range of industries and positions.

I know somebody who spent a very long Chem E career developing cleaner forms of energy. Another worked on developing adhesives. Neither worked towards nefarious ends.

This might be right up your alley :


Chemical engineering is mentioned.

I specialize in thermoplastic and thermoset resins. I’ve worked on the Stealth Bomber, fibers and clothing, potable water, wastewater treatment, movie special effects, theme parks, outdoor power equipment, power generation, cars, trucks, buses, trains, planes, boats, mining, medical devices, electronics, magic markers, ink jet printers, blah blah blah (you get the point). BUT there is so much more that I HAVEN’T done. I’ve worked on some really cool and interesting projects and some extremely boring things. There are SOOO many things you can do with a Chem E degree. Hope this helps.

Perhaps it’s not wise to base your perception of large corporations on their portrayal in a game.