Chemical engineers work with chemicals

How Much Do Chemical Engineers Make?

Chemical engineers earn well above average. However, the salary can differ depending on education, work experience, company and state. The current income study by ingenieur.de provides information.

The salary of chemical engineers depends on various factors. You are among the high earners among engineers.

Photo: panthermedia.net / kwanchaidp

The Salary of a chemical engineer can have a wide range. High annual salaries can be achieved in the pharmaceutical industry, in vehicle construction or directly in the chemical industry. The higher the degree, the higher up engineers can be found in the salary table. In 2019, the gross annual salary of an engineer in the chemical and pharmaceutical industry was around 76.115 Euro. Compared to 2017, this is a negative development, because chemical engineers earned 81,550 euros there. The average salaries in the chemical and pharmaceutical industry for engineers with professional experience are still well above the industry average, but have lost a lot of their lead over the past two years. The high income of more than 80,000 euros in 2016 and 2017 was partly due to the fact that more engineers from the chemical and pharmaceuticals sector took part in the salary test in responsible positions and with extensive professional experience.

How much does a chemical engineer earn?

Starting salary

The benchmark for graduates and young professionals in the chemical industry is high. They received less than two years of work experience 56,950 euros. In second place is vehicle construction with a starting salary of 52,560 euros per year. The income study by INGENIEUR.de also examined the salary development for engineers in vehicle construction.

Young chemical engineers with one Bachelor degree receive an average of 40,000 euros per year. Who else one master can count on a starting salary of around 46,000 euros. However, there is still a lot of room for improvement. Up to 20,000 euros gross are possible depending on the employer and location.


With professional experience

Anyone who climbs the career ladder as a chemical engineer can significantly increase their salary. Engineers with project management functions earn around 63,640 euros. There are even in the upper quartile 77,721 euros inside. Chemical engineers in engineering and planning offices earn significantly less - around 51,000 euros. The strong fluctuations in salaries show that professional experience is essential in order to achieve the highest possible wage.

In management position

The remuneration of a Team leader in the chemical industry, the median is 91,534 euros gross annually. The size of the company is clearly reflected in the average annual salaries of engineers. In all positions, the medians rise visibly as the number of employees increases. In a management position or with personnel responsibility, you earn more than 100,000 euros annually. The location at which a chemical engineer works has a significant influence on the level of the salary.

What tasks do chemical engineers have?

The increased requirements of environmental protection in connection with chemical substances result in a multitude of tasks for chemical engineers. Besides working as a Process and project engineers, in plant construction as well as in research and development departments, tasks in product management, sales and plant maintenance come into question. Chemical engineers can also fill positions in state investigation offices.

Chemical engineering connects chemistry and industry in a complex way. Chemical engineers often have tasks from process engineering and process engineering. Chemical engineers primarily research materials and chemicals and their processes in factories. Organic and inorganic raw materials are used for further processing. From this, chemical engineers develop the following products:

  • Medication
  • Personal care products
  • Fertilizers / pesticides
  • Lacquers
  • cleaning supplies
  • Plastics

The chemical industry plays a major role in Germany.

Source: panthermedia.net/alexraths

Many chemical engineers are in research

An explanation for the good earnings of chemical engineers can be found in the position. Hardly any other industry in Germany is as innovative and research-intensive as the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, writes the auditing company KPMG. Accordingly, many engineers and scientists in the chemical-pharmaceutical industry are involved in research.

After sales, research and development, or R&D for short, is the most lucrative department in a company. A specialist or project engineer in this area earns a gross annual salary of 72,750 euros. For comparison: In the construction industry, a specialist or project engineer earns a meager income 56.000 Euro.

The best place to work for chemical engineers

The large chemical and pharmaceutical companies such as BASF, Bayer, Fresenius, Merck, Boehringer Ingelheim, Roche, Evonik and Lanxess have a great need for chemical engineers. The same applies to detergent and cleaning agent producers and cosmetics manufacturers such as Henkel, Beiersdorf and Unilever. In Germany alone, almost 2,200 companies belong to the chemical industry (as of 2019).

In Europe, the German chemical-pharmaceutical industry generates a quarter of the industry's turnover and is therefore in first place (as of 2017). Worldwide it ranks 4th behind China, the USA and Japan. According to the Association of the Chemical Industry (VCI), the chemical industry in Germany has a turnover of around 195.5 billion euros. 453,000 people were employed in the industry in 2017.

Chemical engineers receive high variable compensation components

The payment of the variable salary component is not always reliable, but it is all the more gratifying. The proportion of engineers who receive variable remuneration components increased steadily until 2016 and then stagnated in recent years. In 2019, 29% of young professionals and 46% of engineers with professional experience received variable shares.

The highest variable shares are estimated in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, in which variable payments make a significant contribution to the high gross annual salaries. The average share of variable remuneration components was for engineers in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries 12.2% of the annual salary 2019. In the upper quartile it was even 17.3%.

Studying chemical engineering is worthwhile

Combining natural sciences with technology - this is what a chemical engineering degree makes possible. The course is so interesting because it not only takes up the scientific aspect, but above all is technically based. You can study chemical engineering here:

Requirements for the Bachelor:

  • University entrance qualification: Abitur or technical diploma
  • An alternative admission requirement can be vocational training with professional experience (regulated individually depending on the university and federal state)
  • Partly pre-study internship of eight weeks or similar

Requirements for the master’s degree:

  • First degree (Bachelor in Chemical Engineering or a similar subject
  • possibly minimum grade

Top 10 colleges and universities of applied sciences for chemical engineering

Universitysubjectgraduation
Technical University BerlinChemical engineeringBachelor of Science, Master of Science
Technical university DortmundChemical engineeringBachelor of Science, Master of Science
Niederrhein University of Applied SciencesChemical engineering in KrefeldBachelor of Science
Technical University of MunichChemical engineeringBachelor of Science, Master of Science
Ulm UniversityChemical engineeringBachelor of Science
Dresden University of Technology and EconomicsChemical engineeringBachelor of Science, Master of Science
University of PaderbornChemical engineeringBachelor of Science, Master of Science
Technical University of RosenheimChemical engineering, Burghausen campusBachelor of Engineering
Münster University of Applied SciencesChemical engineeringBachelor of Science

Good entry opportunities and a salary that is impressive: studying chemical engineering is worthwhile in the short and long term. The engineering colleagues in other disciplines are still watching the chemical engineers in the race for income. This is partly due to the high variable salary components in the chemical-pharmaceutical industry and the high proportion of development engineers in the industry.

What is the salary of chemical engineers with a doctorate?

With a doctorate, all doors are open to chemical engineers: With a doctorate, engineers can earn several hundred euros per month more than their colleagues who have not received a doctorate. More than 100,000 euros per month end up on the payroll. According to our salary study, engineers with a doctorate already earned up to 72,000 euros. The location and size of the company are of course also taken into account when doing a doctorate. Small to medium-sized companies are likely to pay a doctorate in chemical engineering significantly less than a large company.

Anyone looking for a job in the chemical industry or in research and development can go straight to the search for a suitable vacancy in our job exchange. And if you still need tips for the job interview or the perfect cover letter, you will find suggestions in our career area.

A contribution by:

  • Sarah Janczura

    Sarah Janczura is content manager and responsible editor for ingenieur.de. After an internship with a focus on social media, she worked as an online editor in a digital agency. She writes about technology, research and career topics.