Bachelor of Engineering (Chemical Engineering) at RMIT University
No prizes for guessing it's all guys on this course ...
Not so fast. Chemical engineering, says Margaret Jollands, deputy head of learning and teaching at RMIT's School of Civil, Environmental and Chemical Engineering, "seems to be immune to the stereotype about engineering". At RMIT, she says, 25 to 30 per cent of the 100 students enrolling in chemical engineering each year are female. According to Associate Professor Jollands, girls often love chemistry at school and may be influenced in their choice by their school chemistry teachers.
That's great. But what is chemical engineering?
Chemical engineering is the conversion of raw materials to finished products. When a raw material is taken out of the ground, or produced by agriculture, a chemical engineer is likely to be involved in turning it into something else – anything from concrete to lipstick, pharmaceuticals to paint. Chemical engineers, explains Professor Jollands, tend to be people who love chemistry and technology, have a passion for solving problems, and who like working outside and at a big scale.
Sounds interesting, and scientific.
Absolutely. You'll need VCE chemistry and maths to get on to this four-year degree at RMIT's Melbourne city campus, and an ATAR score of 75 to 80. In the first year, you'll spend about half your time doing basic sciences, while the remainder of the year is divided between the fundamentals of chemical engineering and designing chemical engineering processes. These two broad areas continue through the second year; the third year involves the application of fundamentals in different industries. The fourth year gives you a chance to specialise a little and bring everything together with a major design project, where students work in groups to address an industrial problem.
Professor Jollands says that RMIT's course involves problem-based learning, as well as a focus on sustainability. "It makes them very work-ready and competitive," she says, adding that many students do double degrees, pairing chemical engineering with business, applied chemistry, food technology or pharmaceutical sciences.
And after four years?
Many of the big mining and oil companies offer graduate programs for engineers. About a quarter of graduates go to these companies, and others go to a range of other employers, from the very large to the much smaller. According to Professor Jollands, the global financial crisis has had some impact on the large global employers, but she says there are still jobs, and that 85 per cent of graduates are employed by April after finishing their degree late in the year. She adds that engineers are able to use their degree internationally and, for those wanting to travel, there are plenty of options.
What will it cost?
Students with a Commonwealth Supported Place on this degree in 2013 can expect to pay a maximum of $8363 for the year.
What do students have to say?
Deane Carter, 21, is taking a double degree in chemical engineering and chemistry. "It's been a great journey," says the fourth-year student, who adds the degree is "eye opening" and a good choice for "anyone who really enjoyed chemistry in year 12".
Where can I find more info?