Best Chemical Engineering Degrees

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Look at the screen of your iPhone, the way it lights up when you put your thumb against it. How does that work?

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Or take a look at the label on your orange juice from the grocery store. Was it made from oranges that were fertilized? Or tell me this: the last time you had a headache, did you ever think about what exactly is going on when you swallow an ibuprofen?

I bet you rarely think about why and how these seemingly simple things happen. But guess what? Most likely, all of these products and processes, and countless other things throughout our daily lives, started in a research lab with a chemical engineer.

Chemical engineering combines nearly all of the natural and experimental sciences (chemistry, physics, biology, biochemistry, and mathematics) to design and develop processes that transform the most basic materials into usable products (like iPhones and food and medicine!).

This is no small feat, though. Chemical engineers are among the most gifted and talented members of society. Because they’re dealing with highly specialized sciences, most aspiring chemical engineers go through lots of training and tough competition to develop these life-changing products.

But they also are rewarded quite well in the job force. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, in 2015, the median annual wage for chemical engineers was $97,360. So if you’re a math whiz, or a chemistry geek, or just someone who is fascinated with how things work, chemical engineering might just be the degree for you.

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Top 10 Best Chemical Engineering Degrees

Rank School Location
1 Stanford University Stanford, CA
2 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA
3 Princeton University Princeton, NJ
4 California Institute of Technology Pasadena, CA
5 University of California—Berkeley Berkeley, CA
6 University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA
7 Rice University Houston, TX
8 Vanderbilt University Nashville, TN
9 Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD
10 Northwestern University Evanston, IL

Related: 100 Best Colleges and Universities

To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of the top 25 chemical engineering schools across the United States, from California to Delaware. In each ranking, you’ll see the annual tuition, as well as our College Choice Score, which is computed based on each school’s reputation, the department’s reputation, and the school’s return on investment.

Essentially, we’ve distilled a list of schools that offer the best cost, reputation, and effectiveness in the job market. If you’re looking for a school in which to study chemical engineering, you really can’t go wrong with any of the ones on our list. Ready to jump in?

Rankings

See our rankings methodology page.

  1. Stanford University
    Location

    Stanford, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Located in the northern Santa Clara Valley of California, Stanford University is one of the most reputable private research universities in the world. From 2013 to 2016, a poll The Princeton Review consistently named Stanford the school most commonly referred to as students’ “dream college.”

    The chemical engineering curriculum at Stanford is based off of the three pillars of science: chemistry, physics, and biology. The program offers six different 4-year course plans to their incoming students; each plan is designed with differing emphases in math, chemistry, and academic rigor.

    By providing a minor, major, honors program, and coterminal bachelor’s and master’s degree, Stanford University meets aspiring chemical engineers at whatever level they would like to enter the program. The coterminal degree allows rigorous students to work toward a M.A. or M.S. while they are completing their undergraduate work. The honors program is designed for students who intend to pursue a PhD in chemical engineering, and requires an honors seminar as well as an honors thesis on top of other coursework.

    Stanford University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

  2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Location

    Cambridge, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Founded in 1861 with a goal of bolstering industrialization in the United States, MIT is a private research university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Though MIT is most known for its school of engineering, which typically enrolls over 60 percent of its student body, it also houses four other schools in science, humanities, management, and architecture.

    The chemical engineering degree at MIT is divided into three options: Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering, Bachelor of Science in Chemical-Biological Engineering, and Bachelor of Science with Concentration. This allows students to choose a track that fits their particular interests and career goals.

    The classes offered in this program reflect that flexibility; beyond the core requirements in chemistry, biology, physics, and mathematics, this program offers classes in quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, chemical kinetics, energy conversion, and a wide range of other electives. Students at MIT are be led by thirty-five faculty members who are on the forefront of cutting-edge research.

    MIT is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).

  3. Princeton University
    Location

    Princeton, NJ

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Known as one of the most prestigious schools in the United States, Princeton University is a private Ivy League research university located in Princeton, New Jersey. The university boasts numerous well-accomplished alumni; among them are Nobel laureates, Rhodes Scholars, and multiple National Medal of Science winners.

    The rigorous chemical engineering program at Princeton requires students to complete 36 courses that range from core mathematics and physics classes to organic chemistry to thermodynamics. Students may choose to concentrate in one of six areas. During their final year, students complete a senior thesis, which is a full-year research project related to their concentration.

    As a way to encourage study beyond the major, Princeton offers Certificate Programs, which are course requirements that supplements chemical engineering with another field. Students may choose from Applications of Computing, Architecture and Engineering, Geological Engineering, Robotics and Intelligent Systems, and others.

    Princeton University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  4. California Institute of Technology
    Location

    Pasadena, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    As one of the eighteen esteemed Institutes of Technology across the country, CalTech is a private university that tends to enroll aspiring science and technology professionals. Located in Pasadena, California, CalTech was recently rated number one in the United States for the number of graduates who go on to achieve a PhD in their field.

    Students enrolled in the Chemical Engineering BS at CalTech not only get the opportunity to study beneath some of the top thinkers and researchers in the country, but also gain solid experience in chemical process simulation tools and laboratories. After completing core courses their first two years, students choose to specialize in one of four tracks: biomolecular, environmental, process systems, or materials. In total, students will complete 72 units of courses.

    Though the competition is fierce, graduates of the chemical engineering degree at CalTech go on to show a strong presence and leadership in the professional world. 52 percent of alumni enter engineering and science positions, 18 percent go on to the educational world, and 6 percent find employment in software and IT. The average starting salary for graduates of CalTech is an impressive $70,000.

    California Institute of Technology is accredited by Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

  5. University of California—Berkeley
    Location

    Berkeley, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Ranked as the top public university by the 2016 U.S. News & World Report “Best Colleges” report, the University of California—Berkeley (or UCBerkeley) also boasts the number one rating for its chemistry department, which houses the Chemical Engineering major and minor.

    Out of the total 120 units required to graduate with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering at UCBerkeley, students must complete both the university core requirements and the 45 engineering units. The major stresses the importance of providing a well-rounded education for its students, and requires up to 20 units of humanities courses in addition to the hard sciences.

    Chemical Engineering majors are granted ample research experience, and many students pursue projects either independently or under the guidance of UCBerkeley’s faculty. Undergraduate students are currently conducting research in fields such as synthetic biology, energy storage, multiscale modeling, polymer physics and more. Oftentimes, this research leads to further study at the doctoral and professional level.

    University of California—Berkeley is accredited by Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

  6. University of Pennsylvania
    Location

    Philadelphia, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    When Benjamin Franklin founded the University of Pennsylvania, a private Ivy League school in Philadelphia, he modeled the school based on the principles of public service and classic education. Since then, the university has blossomed into a multidisciplinary research hub that enrolls close to 11,000 undergraduates each year.

    Despite its impressive enrollment and scope, the chemical engineering program at the University of Pennsylvania emphasizes its small class sizes and its group of invested faculty. Among the possible specializations that students may choose from are Polymer Science and Engineering, Electronic Materials Processing, Pharmaceutics and Biotechnology, and Environmental Engineering. To specialize, students must take at least five courses in the concentration; these four specialty tracks allow students to hone in on specific research projects and internships, which students complete with faculty guidance.

    The program also offers a unique Product/Process Design class, which is completed over a two-course sequence. In the fall, students learn the basics of product and design process, and in the spring, students complete simulated design problems in groups. Consultants from a local chemical plant visit the classrooms to provide feedback and guidance to the students. This class is often a highlight for graduates, and it’s a great resume-builder to boot!

    The University of Pennsylvania is accredited by Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  7. Rice University
    Location

    Houston, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Located in the center of Houston’s Museum District, Rice University is a private research institution that consistently receives high marks for both its beautiful campus and its academic rigor. With an undergraduate acceptance rate of about 16 percent, it is considered Texas’ most selective university.

    Since the founding of the department in 1921, the chemical engineering degree at Rice University has grown into a strong and rigorous program with eighteen full-time faculty members. Graduates of the B.S. in Chemical Engineering must complete 132 credit hours, with at least 96 credits designated to the department.

    This program provides similar specializations as others on our list; however, Rice University also offers computational engineering as a specialty track. This is for students who are particularly interested in mathematical analysis and simulation of chemical engineering products. Students must take at least 12 credits of “breadth” classes—which includes a basic science course and electives—and at least 15 credits of “depth” classes—which are specific to their specialization area.

    Rice University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).

  8. Vanderbilt University
    Location

    Nashville, TN

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Known informally by its students as “Vandy,” Vanderbilt University is a private research institution located in Nashville, Tennessee. The campus, which is officially considered an arboretum, is known for its beautiful, 330-acre campus, making it a green sanctuary amidst the Nashville cityscape.

    The B.E. in Chemical Engineering at Vanderbilt requires a minimum of 126 credit hours to complete. Within the curriculum, students take core classes—Basic Science, Engineering Fundamentals, and Liberal Arts Core—as well as specialized engineering classes. Specific to this program is the option to specialize in nanotechnology (in addition to other specialization options). Students at Vanderbilt have access to top-notch research opportunities and internships; past graduates have interned with Chevron, Intel, and Merck, just to name a few.

    During their junior year, students may petition the faculty to join the honors program, which requires students to take at least 9 hours of upper-level electives in addition to chemical engineering courses specific to the honor program. Honors students complete a capstone research project and thesis, which they design one-on-one with a faculty member.

    Vanderbilt University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

  9. Johns Hopkins University
    Location

    Baltimore, MD

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Considered the first research university in the United States, Johns Hopkins University—located in Baltimore, Maryland—has a long history of strong institutional leadership in medicine and public health. However, the university also excels in its other programs. The school is among the most cited institutions in the world, and remains an axis for global research.

    The B.S. in Chemical Engineering degree at Johns Hopkins offers two tracks of specialization—Interfaces/Nanotechnology and Molecular/Cellular Bioengineering—which students typically complete in four years. Regardless of their specialization, students at Johns Hopkins enjoy access to an impressive network of research programs such as Johns Hopkins Medicine, the Institute for NanoBioTechnology, the Applied Physics Laboratory, and more.

    Unique to the Johns Hopkins program, the concurrent B.S./M.S.E. program in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering allows junior or senior undergraduate students to complete both their bachelor’s and master’s degree in succession. The university even offers a 50 percent tuition waiver for students in this program, which propels students into top leadership and research positions upon graduation.

    Johns Hopkins University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  10. Northwestern University
    Location

    Evanston, IL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Located just north of Chicago in Evanston, Illinois, Northwestern University is a private research institution that offers 124 undergraduate degrees. The McCormick School of Engineering, which houses the Chemical Engineering degree, enrolls close to 1500 students who are taught by an impressive 180 faculty members.

    In order to complete the B.S. in Chemical Engineering, students must complete 48 courses: 32 units of core courses, 16 units of chemical engineering courses, and 5 technical electives. In addition, students have the option of six areas of specialization: bioengineering, chemical process engineering, design, environmental engineering and sustainability, nanotechnology and molecular engineering, and polymer science and engineering.

    Research opportunities at Northwestern are unprecedented; undergraduate students have the opportunity to apply for quarterly grants that fund research expenses between $1000 to $3000. Similar to other top programs on this list, Northwestern offers the combined BS/MS degree, which allows the top students to complete their bachelor’s degree in less than four years. Some even complete both their bachelor’s and master’s degree within four years. This combined degree launches students directly into top-paying professional roles.

    Northwestern University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

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