Best PhD’s in Chemical Engineering

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When people envision what a chemical engineer may look like, they may first think of individuals in laboratories wearing big goggles and large white coats.

While many chemical engineers do work in a lab wearing typical safety gear, the field of chemical engineering is much more than that. Chemical engineering involves processing raw materials into different products that are in demand or necessary to live. For example, everyday things like electricity you use to watch television or food you bought at the grocery store probably involved some basic fundamentals of chemical engineering.

Chemical engineers work in academia, but also directly in the field in offices or laboratories. They design equipment and different processes in manufacturing plants. Because of the complex nature of the job, these engineers must be adept at mathematics, physics, and chemistry. Due to the high skill level required, these jobs are in high demand and are expected to increase over the years.

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Top 10 Best PhD’s in Chemical Engineering

Rank School Location
1 Brigham Young University Provo, UT
2 Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh, PA
3 Colorado State University Aurora, CO
4 Columbia University New York, NY
5 Cornell University Ithaca, NY
6 Kansas State University Manhattan, KS
7 Louisiana State University Baton Rouge, LA
8 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA
9 New York University New York, NY
10 Northeastern University Boston, MA

What kind of PhD in chemical engineering should you get?

The two most common degrees for this field you may come across will be the doctor of philosophy or the doctor of science. What are the differences? While in other countries one may be slightly higher than the other, in the United States both degrees are virtually identical and at the top of the field. Although some schools may offer both degrees with some minor differences in requirements, they basically differ only in name.

Other than chemical engineering, similar degrees may be biomedical engineering, chemical physics, or a basic engineering PhD with specializations. For degrees with specializations, students will take specific electives to earn that emphasis. Classes may overlap among all the degrees, but differences may be present in the curriculum so it is important to be sure that the coursework and research goals match your future career goals.

How much do people with a PhD in chemical engineering make?

Advanced chemical engineers can easily make at least six figures – in fact, chemical engineers make some of the highest salaries out of all engineering fields. According to PayScale, those who hold a PhD in chemical engineering can make about $105,000 on average. They note that men makeup about 85% of the industry and make significantly more than women. Years of experience also increases one’s salary over time.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, chemical engineers regardless of degree or position make a median salary of $104,910 or about $50.44 per hour. Although those who hold an advanced degree in the field make more on average in general, those with just an entry-level Bachelor’s level who have years of experience also have high earning potential. It is estimated that job availability for chemical engineers will increase by eight percent from 2016 to 2026.

What can you do with a PhD in chemical engineering?

A PhD in chemical engineering prepares one for academia as well as for direct industry jobs. Many choose to become scholars and produce academic research for scholarly articles. Others, although technically in research, may not produce writing but will still contribute to top-level projects. Due to the fact that this degree combines hard research and laboratory skills, there is no single career path for graduates.

Below are some common job titles for chemical engineering PhD holders:

  • Pharmaceutical engineer
  • Professor
  • Project scientist
  • Reaction engineer
  • Product review engineer

What are the requirements for a PhD in chemical engineering?

Best Doctorate in Chemical Engineering Badge

Applicants with either a bachelor’s of science or a master’s of science in a related degree can be admitted into the program. Generally, many students will apply to the chemical engineering PhD program right after they finish their undergraduate degree due to the amount of time the program takes. In general, students can expect to take four or five years to gain their PhD. Students should submit their transcript, letters of recommendation, personal essays, and Graduate Record Examination test scores in their application.

Throughout the program, a variety of coursework will be required along with research which will compose a bulk of the curriculum. Although internships and practicums are generally not required, many students will work alongside faculty and other leading industry professionals to get experience. Students will be required to assist in teaching throughout at least the beginning of the PhD program – this allows them to receive funding from the school which often covers basic needs and tuition. Lastly, a PhD candidate will need to submit a doctoral thesis that is approved by the faculty.

  • Brigham Young University
    Location

    Provo, UT

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Ranked as the No. 1 school for educational value by Forbes, Brigham Young University in Utah is a private institution that was founded by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Currently, there are over 33,000 students enrolled, with just under 3,000 graduate students. The Department of Chemical Engineering was founded in 1960 and receives over $2 million of external research money annually.

    Program Features

    Learn from accomplished faculty by enrolling in BYU’s Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering. This program is offered in the fall, winter, and spring terms. It can be completed in about four and a half years. This program is only 54 credit hours of coursework, in addition to 18 credit hours of dissertation. Below are a sample of courses:

    • Coal Combustion
    • Principles of Reservoir Engineering
    • Molecular Modeling

    Notables

    There are about 40 Ph.D. students enrolled in this program at a time. Annually, about six graduate per year.

  • Carnegie Mellon University
    Location

    Pittsburgh, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Carnegie Mellon University is a prestigious private university located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The school is named after Andrew Carnegie, an ambitious entrepreneur who was prominent for building the world’s largest steel company in the 19th century. Before reaching university status, CMU was a technical school that primarily offered programs in the sciences. Its modern day name comes from when it merged with the Mellon Institute in 1967. The U.S. News & World Report ranks it the No. 25 Best National University.

    Program Features

    Become an independent researcher at one of the most prestigious engineering schools in the country through Carnegie Mellon’s Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering degree. In addition to pursuing one’s own research, students often act as TA’s for other courses and are encouraged to get involved within the community. Here are some facts:

    • Completion Time: four to five years
    • Fellowships and stipends available to all full-time students
    • TA for three courses (maximum of five hours per week)

    Notables

    The median salary in 2018 at the College of Engineering’s Chemical Engineering Ph.D. students was $101,000. Some current reported job titles of graduates include AI Engineer, Senior Research Engineer, and Optimization Engineer.

  • Colorado State University
    Location

    Aurora, CO

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Throughout its eight colleges, Colorado State University offers rigorous programs with the goal of helping students pursue their passion. CSU Rams are diverse, involved within the community, and engaged with the campus. The school’s Chemical Engineering program is offered through the prestigious Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering. In the 2016-2017 school year, over 50 doctoral degrees were awarded within the college.

    Program Features

    CSU’s Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering boasts top faculty as well as a multitude of distinguished research opportunities. During your time as a student, there are several employment opportunities. In addition, financial aid options are available for qualifying applicants. Check out a sample of the areas of study you can choose from for this program:

    • Cell and tissue engineering
    • Metabolic engineering
    • Permeable media

    Notables

    CSU is one of six universities in the nation to be designated as an Innovation and Economic Prosperity University.

  • Columbia University
    Location

    New York, NY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Located in the bustling city of New York, Columbia University is a prominent private research institution that is highly regarded internationally. Students studying here get all the benefits of living in a metropolis while still getting the graduate experience. Columbia was established in 1754 under a charter by King George II in England. It is the oldest university in the state of New York. In 2019, the U.S. News & World Report ranked Columbia No. 3 on their list of Best Universities in the Country and No. 6 on their list of Best Value Schools.

    Program Features

    Passionate about both chemistry and physics? Then the Ph.D. in Chemical Physics may be right for you. This program is through the Department of Chemistry and is full-time. Students can expect to spend the majority of the first year going through coursework, and then starting their dissertation research. Throughout this rigorous program, students can also expect to experience:

    • Teaching apprenticeships
    • Individual sponsor to help guide research
    • Engaging seminars

    Notables

    Around 25 PhDs are awarded yearly within the chemistry department. Students should expect to finish this program with a defended thesis in about five years time.

  • Cornell University
    Location

    Ithaca, NY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Cornell University is an elite private university located in Ithaca, New York. It is considered one of the U.S.’s eight Ivy League schools. Since its founding in 1865, Cornell has achieved many “firsts” and continues to strengthen educational ties within the state and around the world. Its Chemical Engineering programs are located in the Robert Frederick Smith School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. This school was founded in 1939 and has been considered one of the best schools of its kind.

    Program Features

    Get the ability to perform research in state-of-the-art facilities through Cornell’s Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering program. Throughout the program, students will take several courses, two exams, and complete a dissertation. For those who qualify, financial aid, including a stipend, is provided. There are also five area specializations:

    • Biomolecular Engineering
    • Complex Fluids and Polymers
    • Computational Science and Engineering
    • Nanoscale Electronics, Photonics and Materials Processing
    • Sustainable Energy Systems

    Notables

    Other than studying and pursuing research, graduate students are encouraged to engage in the many on-campus events and activities. For example, there are many student organizations to choose from that are a great way to meet new peers.

  • Kansas State University
    Location

    Manhattan, KS

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    All of those who roam the Kansas State University campus are welcomed into the K-State family. Known as the Wildcats, the school encourages everyone to follow the “Wildcat Way” which emphasizes courage and humility. KSU is a land-grant university that was founded in 1963. It is ranked No. 8 on a ranking of the Happiest Students according to the Princeton Review, among other outstanding accolades.

    Program Features

    Feel confident that your research will make a major impact through KSU’s Ph.D. program in Chemical Engineering. This 90 credit hour degree is composed of major and minor coursework, as well as research. At least 30 of the credit hours must be devoted to research. Here are other features of the program:

    • Competitive stipends
    • Multidisciplinary collaborations
    • Off-campus field experiences

    Notables

    The U.S. News and World Report ranked KSU’s graduate engineering programs among the best in the country in 2017.

  • Louisiana State University
    Location

    Baton Rouge, LA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Join a university that values student education without racking up decades of debt. Louisiana State University is a public research institution that is located in Baton Rouge. This city was ranked among the best 15 cities for college graduates according to Money magazine. Annually about $300 million worth of financial aid and scholarships are given out, with two out of every three students graduating completely debt free.

    Program Features

    LSU’s Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering program is great for those who already hold a Master’s in the same or related degree. Other than required coursework and research, students will take a written exam. They may also engage in some teaching if they hold an assistantship.

    • Fall and spring semesters
    • Private research scholarships and fellowships
    • Departmental conferences

    Notables

    LSU offers generous assistantships starting at $25,100 for Ph.D. students. This rate may increase to reflect overall school fees as well as the cost of living.

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Location

    Cambridge, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, better known as MIT, is one of the most prestigious universities for those going into the science, technology, engineering, or mathematics fields. With the No. 1 Chemical Engineering school in the country and in the world, MIT is definitely the place to be getting your advanced degree in this area. The school boasts a dedicated faculty, beyond excellent research, and talented students. MIT hopes to advance knowledge in the STEM fields in the 21st century and beyond.

    Program Features

    MIT offers a wide variety of Ph.D. programs in Chemical Engineering: the standard Doctor of Philosophy/Doctor of Science degree in which students can choose the name of the degree on the diploma, the Doctor of Philosophy in Chemical Engineering Practice, and an interdisciplinary program in Polymers and Soft Matter (PPSM). Key features of these programs include:

    • Financial aid assistance (assistantships and stipends)
    • Completion Time: about 4 years
    • Designated research advisor

    Notables

    The Doctor of Philosophy in Chemical Engineering Practice requires additional courses taken in the Sloan School of Management. The PPSM degree is a more specific field of study that provides a unique way to doctoral candidacy within the field.

  • New York University
    Location

    New York, NY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    What makes New York University such a desirable school? NYU is known for its competitive programs, global relationships, and prominent faculty. Today it is one of the largest private universities in the nation. It is also one of the best-ranking schools. NYU’s Chemical Engineering program is housed in the Tandon School of Engineering, a nationally ranked school by the U.S. News & World Report. The school was founded in 1854 and has had a solid impact on the state’s engineering research and education programs.

    Program Features

    Prepare for a dynamic career in the molecular and medical sciences through NYU’s Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering program. Upon graduation, students will be experts in the field’s fundamental principles and be able to defend their own research. At least 75 credit hours will be completed, with 36 of them relating to the dissertation. Some courses that can be taken include:

    • Chemical Reactor Analysis and Design
    • Statistical Thermodynamics and Kinetics
    • Chemical Laboratory Safety

    Notables

    Merit scholarships are available for qualifying students. In addition, those who are veterans can also apply for special financial aid.

  • Northeastern University
    Location

    Boston, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Northeastern University, with its main campus located in Boston, is a top 50 university according to the U.S. News & World Report. Between the years 2006 and 2018, Northeastern’s research funding increased by 229%. This increase is due to its dedicated faculty, staff, and neighboring community. An essential part of Northeastern’s academics is “experiential learning,” whether that be through research, internships, or global learning. Its advanced Chemical Engineering program is no different, offering many opportunities for students to grow in the field.

    Program Features

    Northeastern’s Ph.D. program in Chemical Engineering provides students with opportunities to work with cutting-edge technologies and research. Because of its ideal location in downtown Boston, students will have access to prominent local businesses. Some unique features of this program include:

    • Focuses: Advanced Materials and Biological Engineering
    • Assistantships available
    • Ability to earn the Gordon Engineering Leadership certificate with the College of Engineering

    Notables

    There is a residence requirement which involves completing full-time graduate studies for one academic year.

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