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Petroleum vs. Chemical Engineering – One In the Same?
chemical-petroleum-engineer-cism

Petroleum vs. Chemical Engineering – One In the Same?

Both petroleum and chemical engineers are considered some of the most valuable degrees in Canada, according to a recent RBC article. But, despite the fact that they are together in this article, these engineering specialties have some differences. These differences are related to what careers are available upon graduation, and the different areas of study that each specialty covers.

Petroleum engineering

What you study 

Petroleum engineering is largely concerned with resource extraction and energy generation – especially in relation to fossil fuels. So, during your undergraduate degree, you will likely study a variety of engineering principles, thermodynamics, chemistry, and geology. Since fossil fuels are located beneath the Earth’s surface, you’ll be studying courses in relation to how to best extract these fuel deposits within the rock layers. Additionally, a large part of your education will be hands-on as you’ll be working in labs, or in the field if you end up in a co-op program.

Career options 

Petroleum engineers will mainly be employed in the oil and gas sector, as well as the plastics sector. In each of these sectors, they could be playing management, manufacturing, or support role in the operations of the company. For example, some job titles held by petroleum engineers include:

  • Chief petroleum engineer
  • Drilling and recovery engineer
  • Engineer, petroleum production
  • Exploitation engineer
  • Mud engineer
  • Offshore drilling engineer
  • Well logging engineer

All of these careers are focused on energy extraction, whether onshore or offshore. But, petroleum engineers could also work in careers related to plastics, since plastics contain fossil fuels in their material.

Salary expectation 

For petroleum engineers in Canada, the annual salary is $98 503 annually according to Payscale.

Chemical engineering

What you study 

Chemical engineering is a broader category than petroleum engineering. It covers the production and use of many types of chemicals. You will need to complete a bachelor’s degree for entering any chemical engineering job, and here you will study engineering concepts, design, chemistry, math, and physics. You may also spend some time studying computer science and learning to code in many programming languages. While chemical engineers’ programs may touch on petroleum, many other chemical compounds present in the industry will be part of your studies as well. Additionally, there also co-op options available in this engineering specialty, which is a good idea for students looking for hands-on, paid work experience.

Career options 

Chemical engineers can be employed in both the public and private sectors. In the public realm, chemical engineers may be employed in water testing or environmental health and safety. In the private sector, the options are endless and include work in food processing, pulp and paper, pharmaceuticals and much more. Some sample job titles for chemical engineers are:

  • Process engineer
  • Fire and explosions engineer
  • Biochemical engineer
  • Food processing engineer
  • Pharmaceutical engineer
  • Continuous improvement engineer
  • Thermo-fluid engineer
  • Chemical technologist
  • Adhesives engineer

All positions work in chemical production as well as the use of them, but across a variety of sectors such as health, food, and energy. For those who aren’t ready to narrow their focus solely to fossil fuels, this specialty could be a better option for your engineering career!

Salary expectations 

As a chemical engineer in Canada, you can expect to earn $65,830 annually according to Payscale.

Both the chemical and petroleum engineering specialties are incredibly valuable in Canada. It really comes down to what you are looking for specifically; if you’re very keen on learning about energy production and geology, petroleum engineering sounds like it’ll be a perfect fit for you! But, if you’d like a broader specialty and enjoy working with chemicals, chemical engineering could be more up your alley. Remember to take the time and consider your options, and also check out the other engineering specialties.

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