Clare College Cambridge

Chemical Engineering

Link to University Subject Page


Chemical Engineers are involved in the conversion of raw materials into valuable products, usually on an industrial scale. Examples include the refining of oil to produce petrochemicals, the production of plastics, the manufacture of pharmaceuticals, food processing, and wastewater treatment. Many Chemical Engineers now work in the area of biotechnology where biological organisms are used to perform the desired transformations (e.g. to make a particular molecule).

Chemical Engineering is a very broad discipline involving elements of Chemistry, Physics, Biochemistry, Materials Science and Mechanical Engineering. Chemical Engineers also need to know about Economics, Safety, the Environment and Sustainability.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Chemical Engineering is an interesting discipline that is useful to society. Within the discipline, there are many career opportunities. Graduates might work as field engineers, be part of research teams, or occupy management positions. There are plenty of challenges and the potential for travel all over the world. It's also worth noting that Chemical Engineers are, on average, better paid than pure scientists and engineers from other disciplines. The wide variety of skills acquired during a Chemical Engineering course also provides career opportunities outside the discipline.

The Course

The Cambridge Chemical Engineering course is a four-year full-time course qualifying students for both the BA and MEng degrees. The course is accredited by the Institution of Chemical Engineers. It is possible to graduate after three years with just the BA degree.

In the first year of chemical engineering students study either first-year Natural Sciences or first-year Engineering. Chemical Engineering students entering via the Natural Sciences route are required to take at least one of Chemistry, Physics and Biology of Cells in their first year, and to take Mathematics or Mathematical Biology. Natural Science students that elect to enter Chemical Engineering without taking Chemistry may be expected to take Chemistry alongside students who have entered the course via first-year Engineering. All teaching in years two, three and four is done within the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology.

The choice between subjects taken in the first year should reflect the interests of the student. All provide equally good preparation for the following years. The opportunity to study a broad range of subjects is one of the great advantages of the Cambridge system. Another example is its flexibility. For instance, if a student changes his or her mind after the first year, it is usually possible to continue studying either Engineering or Natural Sciences rather than joining Chemical Engineering. Equally, it is usually possible to change to Chemical Engineering even if this wasn't stated on the original application form if an appropriate first-year course is studied.


Chemical Engineering students entering via the Natural Sciences route need Chemistry and Mathematics at A level or equivalent qualifications.

One or more out of Physics, Biology and Further Mathematics at AS or A level are highly desirable for the natural sciences route.

Chemical Engineering students entering via the Engineering route need Chemistry, Mathematics and Physics at A level. Further Mathematics is desirable.

All candidates for Chemical Engineering will take a pre-interview assessment.

Candidates for Admission to Chemical Engineering will have two or three interviews in December. One interview will be with the Director of Studies in Chemical Engineering. The other interviews will depend on which subject the applicant intends to study in the first year; these are described in the pages for the Natural Sciences Tripos and the Engineering Tripos

More information on the course is available on the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology's WWW site.

Director of Studies in Chemical Engineering

Dr Bart Hallmark, Director of Studies