What is Process Engineering?

September 8, 2023

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When we think of an engineer's handiwork, often the first things that come to mind are roads, bridges, and buildings. But did you ever stop to consider the fact that the hummus you buy at the grocery store or the medication your doctor prescribes is also the work of an engineer?

Process engineers employ chemical and biochemical processes to turn raw materials into an end product, such as processed food (like beer, butter, or baby formula), medication, gasoline, or cosmetics. Think of it as creating something from a recipe on a large scale, using systemized processes to ensure uniformity and quality standards.

Although process engineers work in the manufacturing industry, their responsibilities differ from those of a production or manufacturing engineer. Production and manufacturing engineers work in Discrete Manufacturing, which involves creating and assembling individual items such as computers, televisions, and furniture. Their workplace resembles a typical factory, with assembly lines, robots, and conveyor belts.

On the other hand, process engineers employ Process or Continuous Flow Manufacturing, which involves blending together materials using chemical processes to create the end product—these are uniform products such as drugs and cosmetics as opposed to individual items like planes and electronics. Their workplace resembles a giant chemistry lab, with temperature gauges, reactor vessels, and steam pipes.

Learn more about bioprocess engineering in our blog.

What Does a Process Engineer Do?

Process engineers can work in various sectors, including food, agriculture, oil, cosmetics, and pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical manufacturing.

Potential roles are also diverse, as process engineers can design and implement the manufacturing process (much like a chef designing the recipes in a restaurant, which employees then carry out), design and/or monitor equipment, optimize pre-existing equipment and processes, ensure regulatory compliance, oversee plant operations and employee safety, and collect data on efficiency and budgetary considerations.

How Much Do Process Engineers Make?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that process engineers made a median annual wage of $105,550 in May 2021, with projected job growth of 14% over the next decade. Indeed.com reports an average base salary of $100,557.

How Do I Become a Process Engineer?

To become a process engineer, you will likely need, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree in chemical, manufacturing, or industrial engineering. To pursue specialized or senior-level positions, you may need a Master of Engineering degree.

There are many different types of engineering master’s degrees but to become a process engineer, you will likely need, at minimum, a bachelor's degree in chemical, manufacturing, or industrial engineering.

During your education, most of your training will take place in classrooms and labs, where you will learn the fundamentals of organic chemistry, fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, process design, and physics. Internships provide more specialized, hands-on training in a specific field.

Process engineers must be well-versed in chemistry, mathematics, machinery, critical analysis, software such as AutoCAD (design and drafting software), communication, and collaboration. Additional certifications can be helpful depending on what field you’re pursuing.

Consider KGI’s Master of Engineering in Biopharmaceutical Processing Program

Would you like to join an exciting, fast-growing industry while doing your part to treat debilitating diseases such as cancer, HIV, diabetes, and heart disease? 

Biopharmaceutical engineers are process engineers who work specifically within the biopharmaceutical industry to discover and develop affordable, safe, and effective medications and therapies for conditions that desperately need a cure. Such treatments include vaccines, proteins, monoclonal antibodies, stem cell biologics, gene therapy, and engineered tissues.

With a Master of Engineering in Biopharmaceutical Processing (MEng) degree, you can choose from a wide range of careers, including many of those which fall within the spectrum of process engineering. Top career roles for KGI MEng program graduates include:

  • Regulatory scientist
  • Manufacturing science and technology (MS&T) specialist
  • Process design engineer
  • Process technology transfer & validation specialist
  • Upstream–cell culture specialist
  • Downstream–purification specialist
  • Finished Product –formulation, filling & lyo specialist
  • Technology innovation specialist
  • Project management
  • Product and portfolio management

If you do decide to pursue a career in the biopharmaceutical industry, KGI’s two-year MEng program places you in an advantageous position to thrive in this competitive field. You will gain in-demand knowledge in areas such as:

  • Bioprocess Engineering Principles
  • Molecular Basis of Disease
  • Principles of Bioreaction Engineering
  • Biotechnology and Emerging Therapeutics
  • Bioprocess Business Plan and Entrepreneurship

Learn about what you can do with a chemical engineering degree.

At KGI, you’ll also receive coaching and mentoring from senior academic and industry experts. Plus, you will gain access to hands-on training in mammalian cell culture, microbial fermentation, food/beverage fermentation, stem cell research, and more with state-of-the-art equipment at the Amgen Bioprocessing Center. Your time at KGI will help you become skilled in key biomanufacturing areas, including product and process development, process validation, CMC regulatory compliance, and quality control.

One program highlight is the Capstone Team Design Project (TDP), where you’ll participate in a “real-life” experience of presenting a drug molecule candidate to a pharmaceutical company. You’ll work in small teams to complete key deliverables, including project management updates and timelines, process scale-up, economic analysis, facility design and raw material supply chain, and phase-appropriate CMC regulatory and quality considerations for Biologics License Application (BLA) submissions.

Academic and industry experts will guide you along the way. The TDP provides you with a comprehensive, big-picture view of the drug development process that will serve you no matter what area of the industry you go into.

Finally, in the MEng program, you’ll have the opportunity to pursue paid internships from key players in the industry such as Amgen, Gilead, and Abzena. Many students go on to gain full-time employment from the companies they intern with.

Get started in process engineering today. To learn more about what you can do with this degree, download our eBook, There’s More to Medicine Than Meets the Eye: Your Guide to a Career in Healthcare and the Life Sciences. Want to connect with us directly? Contact KGI to learn more about admission requirements, curriculum and program details, and financial aid opportunities.




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