Process Engineers are responsible for designing, implementing and optimizing chemical and biochemical processes, especially continuous ones within the chemical, petrochemical, agriculture, mineral processing, food, pharmaceutical, and biotechnological industries.
According to the BLS, the median annual wage for chemical/process engineers was $108,540 in May 2020 with projected job growth of 8% from 2019 to 2029.
Process Engineering provides the chemical or biochemical processes and equipment that are used to turn raw materials such as oil, natural gas or milk (using heat, pressure or a chemical or biochemical agent) into an end product. It is an essential part of the manufacturing industry and is at work during all stages of a continuous manufacturing process.
Process Engineers work in Process or Continuous Manufacturing – takes a formulation or recipe of ingredients and blends them together using a chemical reaction, heat, cold, fermentation, etc continuously or in a batch into a final product which is usually a liquid, powder, gas or solid. (Think turning milk into baby formula, oil refining, gasoline, plastic, shampoo, washing powder, toothpaste, casein, cheese, butter, beer, wine, whiskey, paint, drug or vaccine manufacturing, etc)
In a process manufacturing factory, you typically find, piping, pumps, tanks, flow valves, steam valves, temperature gauges, boilers, vessels, reactor vessels, crackers, distillation columns, heat exchangers, boilers, steam pipes, autoclaves, clarifiers, decanters, fluidised dryers, Program Logic Controllers (PLCs) PID (Proportional Integral Derivative) Controllers, etc,
Production and Manufacturing Engineers work in Discrete Manufacturing – machines and or assembles (screws, bolts, welds, glues, rivets) individual pieces into a distinct product often on an assembly line. (Think car assembly – Telsa’s production line for its electric cars, engine, cell phone, computer, washing machine, TV, airplane, syringe, medical pump, scalpel or pacemaker manufacturing, etc)
In a discrete manufacturing factory, you typically find, assembly lines, conveyor belts, U shaped assembly areas, machine tools, CNC machine centers, CNC lathes, stamping presses and dies, robots, welders, pick and place (SCARA) robots, injection moulding machines, packing machines, air-powered assembly tools, painting and finishing areas, etc.
In summary, if what you are making needs chemistry like making washing powder, it’s process or chemical engineering, if it involves, cutting metal and welding or bolting something together like a washing machine, it’s manufacturing engineering.
For some people, Process Engineers and Chemical Engineers are synonymous. For others and depending on the country you are in, a Process Engineer is a KIND of chemical engineer that designs manufacturing plants, which can do everything from recycling plastics to making jam. Here the emphasis is not on doing new chemistry. Instead, they focus on applying known chemical reactions to designing, maintaining, and improving manufacturing plants. There is more emphasis on mathematics and physics (specifically fluid mechanics) than chemistry, so they work more with mechanical engineers.