Job profiles, areas of work – where does the path lead?

A course to become a process or chemical engineer will open up many exciting areas of work to you. The tasks are varied with numerous opportunities to develop further within employment. In most companies you will be able to move into managerial positions and will be encouraged to participate in further training and specialisations. There is also the option of working abroad for a certain period of time. Companies are also now paying greater attention to compatibility between a career and family.

The professions in which process and chemical engineers can be found have good prospects for the future; employees are being sought and the wages are relatively high. As women are still in the minority in this profession, the SGVC provides particular support to them.

The following portraits are intended to show you how wide-ranging the training and career paths are and the opportunities that a degree course opens up.

From chemical technician to chemical engineer (university of applied sciences) and plant chemist

Sven Karlen

Bachelor in Chemical Engineering (university of applied sciences), plant chemist

My path

Through my apprenticeship as a chemical technician, I gained an insight into the responsibilities of various professions that involve chemistry. The work of a plant chemist appealed to me most of all. Working with the various interfaces such as R & D, analysts, measuring and regulatory technicians, safety at work and workshops gave me the impression of a varied working life. The different areas of work in which a plant chemist is involved can lead to the acquisition of broad specialist and managerial skills. This breadth and my interest in production were the main reasons why I completed a chemical engineering degree at a university of applied sciences.


Since 8/2010:
Plant chemist at Lonza AG, Visp
Bachelor of Science in Chemistry at FHNW in Muttenz. Specialisation: chemical engineering technology, analytical chemistry
Operator: Chemical synthesis and down-stream processing of active pharmaceutical ingredients and intermediates (Production and QA), Lonza AG, Visp
Operator: Chemical synthesis and down-stream processing of active pharmaceutical ingredients and intermediates (production), Lonza AG, Visp
Apprenticeship as a chemical technician, Lonza AG, Visp, Vocational university entrance qualification (Berufsmatura)

Current employment

After my degree, I was able to start directly as a plant chemist at Lonza AG, where I had also completed by Bachelor dissertation in the field of micro-reaction technology. I manage seven continuous processes: at the same time, I run several optimisation projects or am involved in them and planning production, automate and manage administrative tasks such as reporting and controlling, improve operational procedures and deputise for the departmental manager.

Future targets

I would like to gain further experience in my field in continuous processes and also batch processes. In addition, my aim is to complete a job rotation abroad to broaden my horizons in my subject, a foreign language and culture.

With a Bachelor degree in Biotechnology to group manager in pharma-technology

Interview with Nicole Niklaus

Bachelor in Biotechnology, group leader in pharma-technology

Where are you working today?

Chemical engineering is a service, which implements consultancy and investment projects such as production plants for life sciences industries. The corporation with its headquarters in Pratteln near Basel, Switzerland, was founded in 1996 and has branches in Switzerland, Germany and Serbia.

What does the company offer?

High quality, proven consultancy and engineering services for GxP-regulated pharmaceutical, biotechnology, fine chemistry, medical technology, cosmetics, vitamin, diagnostics and food manufacturers. The engineering division, to which I belong, deals with challenging investment projects. As a «Technology Designer» we take over the design, planning, implementation and certification of complex large-scale projects.

What are your areas of activity and responsibility?

In my job I manage and work on projects in the field of pharma-technology and associated specialist areas. In addition to monitoring costs and schedules, this includes responsibilities in the field of plant and process planning and certification. As the group leader, I also manage a team of 12 engineers in the area of pharma-technology.

What aspects of your job do you enjoy?

My work is extremely varied. The specialist responsibilities in the projects are very wide-ranging and require an interrelated all-round approach. This is how one gains experience quickly together with interesting insights into various specialist fields. Another aspect is that the projects are carried out in different companies and always with new project teams.

Why did you decide to study Biotechnology?

After my apprenticeship I wanted to study something that would give me a wide range of opportunities for my later career path. I found this in my Biotechnology degree with the different specialisations.

In your opinion what characteristics do students need?

The most important personality traits for this degree course are an interest in new technologies, extensive logical and cross-functional thinking and enjoyment in solving complex tasks and presenting them.

What knowledge and skills from your degree course do you now use in your everyday working life?

Interdisciplinary understanding and the broad basis now help me to work successfully with project teams from various areas and with different backgrounds. The group work and presentations with different problems during the degree course created the basis for my current job as a project manager.

Education and career

At 16:
Apprenticeship as chemistry laboratory technician
At 19:
Technical vocational university entrance qualification
At 20:
Degree in Biotechnology
At 23:
GMP officer at F. Hoffmann-La-Roche AG, Kaiseraugst
At 25:
Project engineer pharma-technology at Chemgineering Technology AG, Pratteln
At 28:
Project manager pharma-technology at Chemgineering Technology AG, Pratteln
At 31:
Group leader pharma-technology at Chemgineering Technology AG, Pratteln


Via Chemistry towards a Master’s in «Molecular Technologies»


Bachelor in Process technology, on the way towards a Master’s in Molecular Technologies

My path

At the start of my degree course it was clear to me that I would specialise in organic and analytical chemistry as I had too much respect for the major plants in process technology. Although the respect has remained, I became increasingly interested in process technology during my period of practical experience and in the third and fourth semester. This is why I decided to focus my semester dissertation in process technology on the field of micro-reaction technology. In the fifth semester I then decided to specialise in process technology and analytical chemistry. My choice was really confirmed with the subject of process development, which I enjoyed very much.


Since 9/2010:
Master of Science in Molecular Technologies (part-time course), Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz, Muttenz
Bachelor of Science in Molecular Life Science, Process technology and Analytical Chemistry, Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz, Muttenz
Chemistry (not completed), ETH Zurich
University entrance qualification, specialising in Chemistry and Biology, Mathematics as a supplementary subject, Kantonsschule Baden

Current employment

In order to extend my knowledge from my Bachelor course further, I started a Master’s course in «Molecular Technologies» in the autumn of 2010. In addition to the course, I am working at 50 percent as a scientific assistant in various research projects in the fields of nanotechnology and process technology.

Future aims

It’s my aim to find an exciting, varied job after my course. I could imagine finding my feet in the field of process development after my Master’s.

Doctorate in Process technology and project manager for chemical production

Cédric Hutter

Doctorate in Process technology and project manager for chemical production

My path

Through my father’s work at Teranol AG in Lalden, I came into contact with chemical plants at an early age and was impressed by their size and complexity. After completing my university entrance qualification, I started a foundation course in mechanical engineering and process technology. Here I became familiar with many areas of mechanical engineering: from combustion engines via fluid dynamics to biomechanics. I was most interested in process technology because of its diversity.

Building chemical plants requires basic knowledge in almost all areas of technology. It’s important to understand the flow ratios and reactions taking place in a reactor so that the reactor can be designed, built and then operated in an environment that is safe from a technical perspective.

After completing my degree, I remained as an assistant at the ETH for one year and gave various lectures. It was really enjoyable working with students, which was one of the reasons why I started a dissertation at the laboratory for transport processes and reactions. In the following three years I learned how to write a scientific paper together with various partners. I was able to develop an innovative reactor technology in collaboration with two industrial partners together with eleven students, who were writing their Bachelor and Master’s dissertations within my project. The results of my project were presented at various conferences to researchers and interested parties from the industry all over the world.


Project manager chemical production, F. Hoffmann-La Roche AG, Basel
Postdoc at the Institute for Process Technology, ETH Zurich
Doctorate at the Institute for Process Technology, ETH Zurich
Assistant at the Institute for Process Technology, ETH Zurich
Master’s in Process technology ETH Zurich (specialisations: plant and equipment construction, thermal process technology)
Practical work experience Néstle Waters, Paris, France
Practical work experience Lonza Group Ldt., Lalden, Switzerland
Practical work experience Stahleinbau AG, Stalden, Switzerland
University entrance qualification at Kollegium Spiritus Sanctus, Brig

Current employment

After a postdoc at the ETH Zurich, I was able to start a job as project manager at Hoffmann-La Roche AG in Basel. Within chemical production, I am responsible for converting and building new manufacturing plants. As part of this I am also the contact for technical requirements and have responsibility for controlling within projects. The work is varied and requires good communication skills. Technical implementation of our internal customers’ ideas is an exciting challenge.

Future targets

Thanks to my current job, I am able to continue my professional development and expand my managerial expertise. My company offers me many opportunities for further training. In addition to attending courses, job rotations in other areas of the pharmaceutical industry are possible, also abroad.