Process engineers design, specify and install equipment and processes in research or biomanufacturing environments. A process engineer might be involved in the design of equipment and processes in a facility that is just being built or might oversee the manufacturing process in a facility that has been operating for many years. Process engineers also may be responsible for maintaining and/or overseeing the maintenance of existing equipment and providing troubleshooting and support to process technicians who are involved in the everyday manufacturing of biomedical and biopharmaceutical products. Process engineers may interact with manufacturing and research technicians and scientists, regulatory agencies, customers, investors, top-level managers and construction foremen and personnel.
In addition to knowledge specific to biotechnology, process engineers need to be competent with visualization and design software. Good communication and project management skills also are imperative. A process engineer could be involved in installing a piece of equipment on the manufacturing floor one day, while the next day he or she might be sitting at a desk researching or designing a new piece of equipment.
Jobs for process engineers are available in biotechnology-based industries, including biopharmaceutical, agricultural, energy and chemical companies. Process engineers also might work in government or academic research environments.
Most process engineer positions will require a four-year Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree. Specific degrees to pursue include biochemical and bioprocess engineering, biomedical engineering or biological and agricultural engineering. In addition, many community colleges offer two-year Associate of Science (A.S.) degrees in pre-engineering that can help students get on the right path toward a career as a process engineer.
During high school an emphasis on math and science courses is helpful if you would like to pursue a career path as a process engineer.
Entry-level engineering positions usually pay from approximately $45,000 to $50,000 per year, while more experienced engineers can expect to earn between approximately $75,000 and $85,000 per year — and perhaps even more based on educational level, number of years in the field, the type of organization and geographic location. The average salary is approximately $70,000 per year. Salary information is current as of June 2008.
Recommended High School Courses
(From Career Pathways: Focus on Biotechnology, 2006, North Carolina Department of Public Instruction)
English I; Algebra I or Integrated Math I; Earth Science/Environmental Science; World History; Health/Physical Education; Elective; Elective; CTE Elective
English II; Geometry or Integrated Math II; Biology; Civics & Economics; Second Language; Elective; Elective; CTE Elective
English III; Algebra II or Integrated Math III; Science Elective (Chemistry recommended); U.S. History; Second Language; Advanced Science or Mathematics Elective; Elective; CTE Elective
English IV; Higher-Level Math (Algebra II prerequisite); Science Elective (Physics or Principles of Technology I & II recommended); Elective; Elective (Second Language recommended); Advanced Science or Mathematics Elective; Elective; CTE Elective
NOTE: Science course sequences may vary by school. All students are encouraged to take any available higher-level mathematics and science courses, beginning in middle school. Courses in business, computers and communications are valuable to develop necessary career skills. Students pursuing a College Tech Prep course of study need four related Career Technical Education (CTE) credits. Ask your counselor for your school’s guidelines.