Chemical Engineering

Chemical engineers design and operate industrial processes that convert raw materials into valuable products. The need for more sophisticated products and sustainable processes means chemical engineers are in great demand. Chemical Engineering graduates go on to successful jobs in a broad range of fields, and a large number pursue careers in the chemical and related industries. Cindy Crawford and the President of Trinidad and Tobago, His Excellency Professor George Maxwell Richards, both studied Chemical Engineering (the latter is a graduate of the Department) – so really you can go on to do anything!



Course Structure

The Cambridge Chemical Engineering course starts with a year studying Engineering or Natural Sciences. Students move to the Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology Department in their second year, and study an intensive two-year course which brings them up to B.A. level and fulfills most of the Institute of Chemical Engineering’s requirements to register for Chartered Engineer status.

An optional fourth year (taken by almost all students), includes a wide choice of modules and a research project, bringing students up to M.Eng. level, and completes the IChemE’s educational requirements.

Chemical Engineering at King's

King’s first Fellow in Chemical Engineering was also the first head of the Chemical Engineering Department, founded with a bequest from Shell in 1948. He was Terence Fox, famous in the Chemical Engineering world for stating that, ‘God’s greatest mistake at the creation was to frame the Navier Stokes equations in such a complex form.’ King's second Fellow in Chemical Engineering is the current Director of Studies, Geoff Moggridge. Thus the subject has a short, yet distinguished, history in the College.

Fellows at King's in Chemical Engineering:

Professorial Fellow

Design and development of chemical products; production and control of microstructures; environmental issues.

Applying for Chemical Engineering at King's

Typically two to four students are accepted each year to read Chemical Engineering at King’s, although there are no quotas. Applications are welcome from suitably qualified students from anywhere in the world, and we actively encourage applications from female applicants, who are underrepresented in university Chemical Engineering courses.

On your UCAS form, there are two courses to choose between:

  • Chemical Engineering via Engineering (UCAS code H810) - First year Engineering + three years of Chemical Engineering

  • Chemical Engineering via Natural Sciences (UCAS code H813) - First year Natural Sciences + three years of Chemical Engineering

Subject Requirements

For Chemical Engineering via Engineering, the following subjects are essential:  Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry. For students taking A-levels, Further Mathematics at AS or A2 (or equivalent) would be excellent and we recommend that you take it in addition to Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry wherever possible. Biology can also be helpful.

For Chemical Engineering via Natural Sciences, the following subjects are essential: Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics. For students taking A-levels, Further Mathematics can be offered in place of Physics (mechanics modules within maths are better preparation than most physics modules).

Pre-Interview Assessments

All candidates for Chemical Engineering at King's are required to take a pre-interview written assessment for either Natural Sciences or Engineering (depending on your choice of pathway), which will take place in schools and other assessment centres. Your performance in the assessment will not be considered in isolation, but will be taken into account alongside the other elements of your application.

Written Work

Applicants for Chemical Engineering do not need to submit any written work as part of their application.


Most (but not all) candidates are invited for interview in King's. If invited for interview, applicants for Chemical Engineering have the same interviews as either Engineering or Natural Sciences (Physical) candidates, except that one of the interviewers will be a Chemical Engineer.

Interview candidates for Chemical Engineering via Engineering also have a short seminar on an area of maths or physics which will be unfamiliar, followed by a written exercise based around the seminar material. There is also a more general Maths and Physics written test for applicants who opt for the Engineering route, which lasts one hour.

The subject choices that you make at school can have a significant impact on the course options available to you at University - find out more.
Find out about how to register for your pre-interview assessment and see specimen papers from previous years.
Candidates for some subjects are required to submit written work as part of the application process - see more here.
It's completely normal to be nervous about coming to interview, but here's some practical advice about how to prepare for the process.

Reading, Resources and Events

There are no particular books that prospective Chemical Engineers are required to read, but do look at the Faculty reading advice. Your schoolwork in Mathematics is essential preparation for Chemical Engineering at Cambridge. If you are studying in a different qualification system and wish to consult an A-level textbook, we suggest L. Bostock and S. Chandler. 2013. Core Maths for Advanced Level. 3rd edition. Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes.

The NRICH website has some excellent resources for extension work. See in particular the article about mathematical issues, curriculum links, and chemNRICH, as well as engNRICH, and physNRICH. If your school does not offer Further Mathematics and you would like to take it, you may be able to get support through the Further Mathematics Support Network. See the flowchart linked below.

Events which may be of interest in the year before you apply (year 12 in the UK) include the Oxford and Cambridge Student Conferences, Headstart, CU Masterclasses, CU Science Festival, and King's Open Days. Students from backgrounds where there is little tradition of entry to Higher Education might like to think about applying for the Sutton Trust Summer Schools or the CUSU Shadowing Scheme.

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