University of South Carolina

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Chemical Engineering: What to Expect

Chemical Engineering majors at the University of South Carolina will benefit from small classes and outstanding faculty members who are extremely accessible to students. As a Chemical Engineering major, you will learn to translate knowledge from chemistry, biology, and other sciences into the products that provide fuel, power, medicine, and materials that are vital to our society and the world. Through challenging coursework and educational experiences, you will develop engineering knowledge as well as additional professional and personal skills needed to succeed in your career. You will be afforded the opportunity to work with a professor in research on some of today’s most notable engineering challenges. As a Chemical Engineer major, you will also be encouraged to participate in co-operative education, industrial internships, and research and educational opportunities nationally and internationally.

The following courses fulfill some of the requirements for a Bachelor of Science in Engineering with a major in Chemical Engineering:

  • Chemical Process Principles
  • Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics
  • Mass Transfer
  • Chemical Engineering Kinetics
  • Separation Process Design
  • Chemical Engineering Laboratory I and II
  • Chemical-Process Analysis and Design I and II
  • Chemical-Process Dynamics and Control
  • Process Safety, Health, and Loss Prevention

A Bachelor of Science in Engineering with Distinction in Chemical Engineering is offered for students who wish to participate in significant research and/or design activities in Chemical Engineering with a faculty mentor. A detailed list of degree requirements can be found in the Undergraduate Bulletin.

Enhancing your Experience

Study Abroad allows you to earn academic credits toward your USC degree while seeing the world! Overseas study can complement any academic program or major. Chemical Engineering majors can participate in study abroad semesters at various universities which USC has agreements in place including universities in locations such as Australia and England.  While abroad, you will gain a global perspective of the needs of society and learn about other countries and cultures. You are encouraged to visit the Study Abroad Website for more information on opportunities to broaden and extend your knowledge and perspectives.
Student Organizations can be instrumental in helping you adjust to life on campus and network within your field. The University of South Carolina has a family of nearly 300 student organizations. As a Chemical Engineering major, you can benefit from getting involved in the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, AIChE (The Chemical Engineering Society), Omega Chi Epsilon Chemical Engineering Honor Society, Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society, and Theta Tau Professional Engineering Fraternity. You can also get involved in annual competition, such as the national Chem-E Car competition organized by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. You will compete by designing, building, and testing a model car, powered by a chemical energy source to carry a specific load over a given distance, and then stop. Find a student organization on campus that interests you!
Graduate School is one of many possibilities following graduation. Mechanical engineering majors have gone on to pursue graduate programs in law, medicine, and engineering.
Distinguished Faculty can help enhance your overall academic experience while at the University. The Chemical Engineering faculty is very dedicated to teaching and many have received prestigious awards including Dr. Michael Amiridis, Dr. Francis Gadala-Maria, Dr. Michael Matthews, Dr. Harry Ploehn, Dr. Christopher Williams Dr. Vincent Van Brunt, Dr. John Weidner, and Dr. John van Zee. 
Departmental Scholarships may be awarded to outstanding entering freshmen or current students. Scholarships that incoming freshman are eligible for include the Cassidy Fae Pendley Memorial Scholarship in Engineering; Engineering Faculty, Student, and Alumni Scholarship; Harold S. Wrenn Bicentennial Scholarship; and the Michelin North America, Inc., Endowed Scholarship. The College of Engineering and Computing offers more than 60 additional scholarships each year.
Associated Learning Communities are an integral part of the university experience. These communities provide you with the opportunity to live in an environment that promotes diversity, embraces excellence, encourages insightful faculty-student interaction and works to develop a strong sense of community. These academically themed communities also emphasize active service-learning experiences, study-abroad opportunities and undergraduate research. First-year students in the College of Engineering and Computing may choose to live in the Engineering and Computing Community. Students will benefit from increased interaction with faculty and go on excursions to places such as Bose and BMW’s plants in South Carolina.

Internship and Research Opportunities

Internships can be an important asset to your overall educational experience. Internship experiences often help you confirm your career interests, give you hands-on experience in a professional setting, help build your resume, reinforce what you’ve learned in class and can often lead to full-time employment. Likewise, pursuing professional research opportunities as an undergraduate student can also help enrich your academic experience while at the University. As an undergraduate student, you can work closely with faculty research mentors and explore a discipline that interests you. Both internship and research opportunities help you build a competitive edge in the job market.

As a USC student you will have numerous resources at your disposal to assist you with locating internship and research opportunities. The USC Career Center is the central location at USC for assisting students with internship preparation and finding an internship. In addition, be sure to visit your academic department as many programs offer supplemental internship guidance specific to your major. The USC Career Center operates a satellite office in the College of Engineering and Computing providing convenient access for students to obtain career guidance, as well as to participate in employer information sessions and on-campus interviews. The Office of Undergraduate Research assists all USC undergraduates by providing research and scholarly experiences in their chosen fields.

Career Opportunities

Chemical Engineering majors generally pursue careers in the chemical process industries including petroleum, refining, plastics, artificial fibers, and detergents. Other fields that employ chemical engineers include the nuclear industry, biomedical industry, and food industry. Graduates may also pursue graduate studies in Chemical Engineering that lead to careers in research or teaching. Chemical Engineering majors typically earn an average salary of $55,000 to $85,000 within the first five years following graduation.

You can find more information about career options in the US Department of Laborís Occupational Outlook Handbook.

The USC Career Center offers numerous resources which provide more information about career opportunities for students in this major. Once admitted, a Career Development Coach is available to help you assess your interest areas, make decisions about your career path, and identify the experiences and skills that will help you accomplish your goals. Spur Connections will help you locate mentors from among USC alumni, employers and community members who can provide insights based on their careers and experiences. Early planning and preparation are keys to success.

Alumni Spotlight

Chemical Engineering major Emily Berger learned firsthand about the benefits of networking and internship experience before even stepping foot on campus as a freshman student. As a senior in high school, Emily shadowed a products researcher for Pampers at Procter & Gamble (P&G). After her sophomore year, she gained additional experience by interning with the company. She was offered a full-time position as a products researcher before the fall of her senior year at Carolina. “Internships are extremely critical for successfully entering the engineering job market,” she said. “Many companies hire from within, that is, they hire their interns. I was lucky enough to receive a full-time offer at the end of my last summer internship, which relieved a lot of the stress my peers were under when applying for jobs.” In her current position as a products researcher for P&G, Emily spends a lot of time working with consumers. For Emily, the most rewarding part about being an engineer is being able to improve the lives of people throughout the world. “Many engineers do not get the opportunity to directly see the fruit of their labor,” she said. “I get to see my hard work everyday on the shelves of stores and on TV!” The chemical engineering curriculum and her experiences at USC helped prepare Emily for her career at P&G. “The problem solving skills I learned from my professors have definitely helped me succeed,” she said. “At USC, I made sure to become involved in things that helped me become a more well rounded student. Not too many engineering students are involved in Greek Life, but I always look for opportunities to step outside my comfort zone and pave new roads.” Emily encourages current students to gain professional experience through internships and co-ops. “Sure, an engineering curriculum is very difficult, but I learned more from my experiences outside of the classroom.”

About the College of Engineering and Computing

The College of Engineering and Computing at the University of South Carolina is composed of five departments: Chemical Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Computer Science and Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering.  The College offers nine undergraduate degree programs.  The College of Engineering and Computing has been undergoing an unprecedented growth in research and scholarship and its faculty excel in a variety of areas including Biomedical Engineering, Bioinformatics, and Atomic Level Engineering.  The College also offers several options for graduate studies including a Certificate of Graduate Studies, Master of Engineering in Computer Science and Engineering, Master of Science in Computer Science and Engineering, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science and Engineering.

Points of Pride

  • A national report issued on September 28, 2010 shows that USC and the College of Engineering and Computing are home to some of the South’s best doctoral programs including Chemical Engineering (ranked 7th in the South), Electrical Engineering (ranked 7th nationally and first in the South), and Mechanical Engineering (ranked 7th in the South).

Additional Resources
Chemical Engineering Website
College of Engineering and Computing Website
University Career Center
Undergraduate Bulletin