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How to Become a Process Engineer

If you have excellent technical skills, high-level analytical skills, and exceptional interpersonal skills, a process engineer is a great career choice for you.

Process engineers design, implement, and enhance industrial processes. They are employed in various industries, including manufacturing, pharmaceutical, petroleum, and biotechnology, ensuring that the processes to make a wide range of products run efficiently and are optimized. Process engineers incorporate the use of workers, machines, materials, information, and energy in designing the best possible process strategies. They must have a solid eye for detail as they review production schedules, design specifications, workflows, and other information to continually improve the efficiency of processes. 

Excellent communications skills are essential for process engineers, as is a deep understanding of and experience in engineering. They must be analytical thinkers, have strong project management skills, and advanced knowledge of CAD and AutoCAD technologies. Testing and troubleshooting are important to being a process engineer as is a solid understanding of process engineering software. 

Sample job description

Process engineers design, control, and operate the chemical or biochemical processes and equipment that are used to turn raw materials into useful, everyday products. They play a crucial role in many industries, but mainly in the manufacturing sector. [Your Company Name] is searching for a process engineer who has proven experience designing processes and equipment for manufacturing, testing, and monitoring equipment, and overseeing the deployment of the chemical or biochemical processes.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Evaluate processes and workflows to identify opportunities for improvement
  • Meet with Production Managers to assess existing processes
  • Create process ideas to reduce costs and improve production rates
  • Design and test process upgrades and new systems
  • Ensure operations comply with safety and quality standards
  • Perform process simulations and troubleshoot issues
  • Develop routines and best practices to ensure product quality
  • Develop standardized operating instructions for processes

Education and experience

This position requires a bachelor’s degree in manufacturing engineering, process engineering, industrial engineering, or a related field. Some employers prefer job candidates who have a master’s degree or Ph.D. for certain positions or career advancement.

Required skills and qualifications

  • Analytical, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills
  • Teamwork and interpersonal communication skills
  • Strong technical writing ability
  • Proficiency in working with process engineering and computer-assisted design software
  • Demonstrated expertise in solving highly technical problems
  • Advanced knowledge of production machinery and processes
  • High-level skill in computer technology and systems operations

Preferred qualifications

  • Understand customer demands and the impact of actions
  • Project management that results in the timely execution of actions that resolve issues
  • Compile and evaluate test data to determine appropriate limits and variables for process or material specifications
  • Bachelor’s degree in engineering

Typical work environment

Process engineers spend much of their day in an office or laboratory environment. They might also be based onsite at industrial plants, refineries, and other large-scale manufacturing locations. They typically are involved in the planning, management, coordination, and control of the manufacturing process in the course of their day. Most process engineers work 40-hours weeks during regular business hours.  

Typical hours

The typical work hours for a process engineer are from 9 AM to 5 PM. However, some process engineers may work non-traditional hours, depending on the needs of their company.

Available certifications

Most companies will need a process engineer, so many institutions offer different certifications to help. Check out the following: 

  • Certified Manufacturing Engineer (CMfgE). Designed for experienced candidates with a minimum of 8 combined years of manufacturing-related education and work experience, this certification proves your knowledge, skills, and abilities in manufacturing processes, design and development, automated systems and control, digital enterprise, and more. You must receive 60% or higher on the exam to pass. You must recertify every three years to maintain certification.
  • Certified Quality Engineer (CQE). The CQE is offered by the American Society of Quality and demonstrates your skills in the development and operation of quality control systems, application and analysis of testing and inspection procedures, the ability to use metrology and statistical methods to diagnose and correct improper quality control practices, and more. Candidates must have 8 or more years of experience in quality engineering. The comprehensive exam consists of multiple-choice questions.

Career path

This position requires a bachelor’s degree in manufacturing engineering, process engineering, industrial engineering, or a related field. Some employers prefer job candidates who have a master’s degree or Ph.D. for certain positions or career advancement. Successful process engineers can advance into roles as team leaders or supervisors.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 17-2031

2020 Employment20,400
Projected Employment in 203021,624
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 6% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift1,100 increase

According to the industry website Interesting Engineering, one trend that will affect all engineering sectors soon, including process engineering, is the increasing use of the Internet of Things (IoT). Smart devices are impacting the metrics by which factories’ productivity is measured. Another growing trend in engineering is the use of renewable energy. An estimated 19 percent of power in the U.S. will come from renewable sources like wind, solar, and hydropower in 2020, and renewable energy technology should become even more popular beyond that. This development will lead to new battery technology as well as advances in power grid management.