Communication in Chemical Engineering

My name is Stephanie and I attend The Salt Lake Community College. Recently I decided that Chemical Engineering was the best major for me. I am enrolled in a Technical Communication Class and was wondering about the types of Communication are used in the field of Chemical Engineering? What types of writings do Chemical Engineers create? Do they do a lot of reports? Do they perform mission statements? How important is oral communication in the field? I heard that a lot of people straight out of College can't form simple sentences within their chosen fields. Just how important is communication in the Engineering Industry?
posted by Stephanie, Salt Lake City, UT on March 28, 2012

Answer 1 by Ms. Jocelyn Clapper

I dont think being an expert technical writer is necessary where I work but one at least has to know the basics. I have to communicate with our sales team daily about production requirements, how much oil they need, how much we can produce, and this is all done by e-mail and conference calls. Also, submitting capital projects requires some technical writing skills since you have to write coverletters when you ask for money and have to show payback calculations. I know it really helps to be a good writer when asking for funding because if you can explain why the money will be used for a really good idea then it will more often get approved than if a coverletter didn't give a good description of what the project is, and nice graphs, tables, and calculations always help. I also have to write procedures (e.g. shutting down the plant to keep it offline for a few days). Again, being an expert writer isn't necessary but one at least has to be understandable. I do think the technical writing courses I took in college were useful in showing me how to properly put tables into a document that many important people will see, and also just how to write professionally. I hope this helps. Jocelyn

Answer 2 by Dr. Sunita Satyapal

Dear Stephanie, Communication skills, including both writing and speaking skills, are extremely important. Depending on the type of job you have, you'll probably write technical reports, possibly articles for publication and material that may be used for filing patent applications. You may end up writing material for the layperson such as information for a quarterly or annual report. You could also write proposals for new research ideas and will usually write up the results of your work. As for your question about mission statements- you could end up writing them but this is usually a very minor example of the writing you would typically do. Speaking skills are also very important. You will probably give presentations using power point slides and your audience may vary from a few people in a company to a Board meeting to a technical conference that could have more than a hundred people. As you progress in your career, you may be asked to make a keynote speech, give remarks at a large conference or participate on a panel in front of an audience at a technical meeting. I've had to give talks to audiences of more than 2,000 people and highly recommend that you take whatever communication classes you can at this stage in your studies. Practicing your speaking skills and perhaps taking debate classes, would help give you a solid foundation along with your engineering classes. Good luck with your studies!

Answer 3 by Anastasia M Venable-Nappen

Stephanie, Oral and written communication is extremely important in every engineering field. You have to effectively communicate with colleges, vendors, production, and contractors when working on projects to make sure everyone is on the same page and things are done properly. I have had to present project reports regularly as a project manager and am always writing technical reports. Technical reports include the project scope which includes detailed information about equipment, the mechanical installation, electrical installation, automation, civil and structural requirements, standard operating procedures, process flow diagrams, equipment layout and process instrumentation details and drawings, and many other items. I also am required to complete monthly reports that detail project status compared to budget and original timelines. I have worked with some people during my career that can't communicate well (orally and written) and it makes things much more difficult than they need to be. I hope this helps.