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A Guide to the Top Chemical Engineering Masters Degree

written by: Faith Oh•edited by: SForsyth•updated: 9/12/2010

Learn more about the top chemical engineering graduate programs in the country and how you can create your own personal ranking of the best programs for you.

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    Chemical Engineering: An Overview

    Chemical engineers work at the intersection of the physical sciences, biological sciences and mathematics in order to understand and improve the process of manufacturing various materials from chemicals. They are also involved in the design and construction of the chemical plants used in the manufacturing process. Chemical engineers are employed in various industries including oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, scientific and technological management consulting, scientific research and development, automobile parts manufacturing, basic chemicals manufacturing and the federal government.

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the national average wage for chemical engineers is about $44 hourly and $92,000 annually. Chemical engineers in the oil and gas industry are the highest paid with an average annual salary of about $116,000, while the lowest paid chemical engineers work in the artificial fibers, synthetic rubber, resin and filaments manufacturing industry, and make an average of about $88,000 annually.

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    Top Chemical Engineering Masters Programs

    U.S. News and World Reports creates an annual ranking of major graduate and professional programs in the United States including chemical engineering. It's chemical engineering ranking details a total of 97 programs. Here are the best chemical engineering graduate programs in the country according to the magazine. This list could be of help to anyone trying to find the top chemical engineering masters degree granting programs.

    1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, 4.9

    2. University of California--Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, 4.8

    3. California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, 4.7

    3. University of Minnesota--Twin Cities, Minneapolis, MN, 4.7

    5. Stanford University, Stanford, CA, 4.5

    6. Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, 4.4

    6. University of Texas--Austin (Cockrell), Austin, TX, 4.4

    6. University of Wisconsin--Madison, Madison, WI, 4.4

    9. University of California--Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA, 4.2

    10. University of Delaware, Newark, DE, 4.1

    The number after each school name and location corresponds to each program's score on the ranking system.

    Another graduate school directory, gradschools.com, puts the number of on-campus masters degree granting chemical engineering programs in the U.S. at 144.

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    Popular Rankings may be Doing you a Disservice

    While popular rankings like the one above may come in handy in helping you narrow down your graduate school search, they may not do the best job of helping you choose the best graduate school for you. This is because there are other factors that should determine where you ultimately apply to and attend graduate school. These include your specific research interests, particular faculty you may be interested in working with, placement record of certain departments in terms of jobs, relationships with industry and future employers, overall feel of a particular school and the town in which it is situated. Once all of these and possibly some other things that may be important to you are taken into consideration, it becomes clear that a mass market ranking may not suit you. That is why Phds.org, a website that collects information about graduate programs advises that you create a personalized ranking based on criteria that you stipulate. This will in turn lead to a rewarding graduate school experience.