Chemical engineers solve problems involving chemicals and design and create products made from chemicals, such as plastic, synthetic rubber and detergent. According to The Princeton Review, "chemical engineers translate the discoveries chemists make into real-world products." Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) sees a slight decline in employment for chemical engineers through 2018, these professionals generally earn high incomes.
The average salary for chemical engineers as of May 2010 was $45.48 per hour, according to the BLS. That translates to $94,590 per year. The middle 50 percent of chemical engineers were making $34.11 to $54.15 per hour, or $70,940 to $112,630 per year. The bottom 10 percent had salaries at or below $27.17 per hour, or $56,520 per year. The top 10 percent were earning $67.15 per hour and higher, or $139,670 per year and more.
Highest-Paying Employment Types
Chemical engineers in three types of employment settings in 2010 had average annual salaries higher than $100,000, equaling more than $48 per hour, according to the BLS. Chemical engineers working for scientific research and development services were earning $48.16 per hour on average, or $100,180 per year. The average salary for chemical engineers was $50.36 per hour, or $104,760 per year, in management, scientific and technical consulting services, and $55.02 per hour, or $114,450 per year, in oil and gas extraction. Fewer than 900 chemical engineers work in oil and gas extraction and fewer than 400 in management, scientific and technical consulting services.
Other Employment Settings
Chemical engineers made good money in other employment settings as well. Chemical engineers working in agricultural chemical manufacturing, such as in pesticide and fertilizer manufacturing, were earning $40.07 per hour on average in 2010. Those working in the manufacturing of resin, synthetic rubber and artificial synthetic fibers and filaments had an average pay rate of $42.14 per hour. Chemical engineers working in basic chemical manufacturing were earning $45.25 per hour on average, in pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing $45.40, in architectural and engineering services $46.91 and in petroleum and coal products manufacturing $47.44 per hour.
By state, chemical engineers earned the highest average salary in Alaska, at an hourly rate of $61.08 per hour, equaling $127,040 per year. Rounding out the top five were Wisconsin at $56.94 per hour on average, Delaware at $56.17, Montana at $56.11 and Wyoming at $54.41. Chemical engineers in Madison, Wisconsin, had the highest hourly rates in the country, averaging $65.97, or $137,220 per year.