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Process Engineer

Education and Training: Bachelor’s degree in applied science or biology
Average Salary: $39,538
Job Outlook: Good

Process engineers are also known as science technicians in the United States. They are employed in many different kinds of industries such as biology, agriculture, chemicals, forestry, nuclear science, and geology.

The primary job of a process engineer is to assist scientists in research and development by improving products and processes but they do not carry out actual research. They operate and maintain lab equipment, record scientist observations, and carry out assigned tasks. Process engineers are required to log their findings on a daily basis.

The term process engineer includes a broad umbrella of industries under it. Agricultural process engineers conduct experiments and tests for increasing crop yield, genetic engineering, and production technology while biology process engineer assist research scientists in medical research.

Education and Training Requirements

Science process engineers have a college degree in natural sciences or biology while those employed in other industries may only have an associate’s degree in applied sciences. Students can study specific technology related programs at trade schools and community colleges. It is recommended that students first complete two years of college and then take an advanced certification at a technical school as it will cover the practical aspects of
process engineering.

After fulfilling all academic requirements, process engineers learn via on the job training. Coursework in subjects like math and science will also help.

Getting the Job

Students at trade schools get internship opportunities which can lead to full time jobs. Others can apply to process engineering jobs through job boards and other offline mediums.

Process engineers start off by working as trainees under the supervision of senior technicians or research scientists. Eventually, they start performing regular duties that are assigned to them.

During the interview process, technical questions about lab equipment and research processes may be asked.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook, and Career Development

The overall employment opportunities for process engineers are expected to increase 12% by 2018 due to an increase in medical and scientific research. New developments in technology and automotive manufacturing will see a surge in process engineer hiring.

Those employed in biological sciences, forensics, and environmental sciences will have the best opportunities.

Job prospects will also be great for process engineers with a bachelor’s degree in applied sciences and those who have considerable work experience handling lab equipment.

Working Conditions and Environment

Process engineers typically work indoors in labs but production process engineers may have to work in the production area. Occasionally, they may have to travel to a manufacturing site.

Biological process engineers work in air conditioned laboratories in shifts. Though most of them work 40 hours a week, it is not surprising to find process engineers working longer hours to monitor experiments.

The research based nature of their job exposes them to hazards from chemicals, toxic materials, and heavy equipment. These conditions generally do not pose any risks if safety protocols are followed correctly.

Salary and Benefits

As of May 2008, the median annual wages of science technicians working with the federal government were $39,538. The hourly wages of nuclear process engineers were the highest at $32.64.

Those employed with the government or businesses receive standard employee benefits like life insurance, medical insurance, sick leave, and paid time off.

Where to Go for More Information

American Chemical Society
1155 Sixteenth St., NW
Washington, DC 20036
(800) 227-5558

1855 Folsom St., Ste. 643
San Francisco, CA 94103

Society of American Foresters
5400 Grosvenor Lane
Bethesda, MD 20814
(866) 897-8720

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesEngineering, Science, Technology, and Social Sciences