Have an interest in chemistry, machinery, and production methods? Like solving technical problems? Train now for one of our area’s most reliable careers.
Chemical process operators safely handle, transport, transfer, store and dispose of chemicals and other materials for manufacturing facilities that transform raw materials into finished products. They operate both continuous and batch processes on a variety of process equipment including reactor systems, valving stations, and tanker transfer stations.
Upholding health, safety and environmental standards in compliance with state and federal regulations is a key responsibility. Managing regular preventative maintenance on equipment and instrument calibration, they help a plant operate efficiently to prevent emissions, leaks and unnecessary shutdowns. Procedures include:
- Set up and adjusting of indicating and controlling devices
- Monitoring and recording of reactions, noting changes in chemical and physical properties
- Adjusting valves and controls to maintain system at specified temperature, pressure and vacuum levels
- Maintaining a log of gauge readings, shift production and equipment malfunctions
Chemical process operators work in teams and shifts to keep operations running 24 hours a day. The level of direct supervision varies by plant and company, but is typically minimal. Processes require working closely with chemical engineers and tradesmen, technicians, and co-workers. All employees in a chemical plant have to wear safety helmets, goggles, safety shoes, gloves, and respirators. Chemical process operators may work in enclosed spaces or high places, may be required to climb ladders to storage tanks, and lift process equipment and product.
About the Program
In addition to foundation courses in chemistry and physics, you will learn about the industrial environment as it relates to process operations and instrumentation. Delta College has worked closely with local industries to develop the necessary curriculum to make sure you’re prepared and job-ready.
1-year advanced certificate
The certificate program is appropriate if you are an experienced worker with a previous technical degree/experience or changing from a career in another manufacturing industry.
2-year associate degree
The associate’s degree program is a good choice if you have limited college or are new to the industry. This is a good pathway for continuing your education for a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering, Engineering or Process Management. Delta College has articulation (transfer) agreements with Saginaw Valley State University, Northwood University, Eastern Michigan University, Ferris State University and more.
Fast Start Program
The 480 hour Pre-chemical Process Operator Fast Start program is another option if you can make a full-time commitment. Students are in class 30 hours a week and also have outside class assignments. Preferred candidates will have minimum WorkKeys® scores, manufacturing experience, and previous college or training. Fast Start programs are scheduled when local hiring needs exceed available graduates.
What are students saying?
"With the preparation the instructors have given me, I feel like I’m very marketable to local employers. I am ready to walk right into a job, rather than have them train me for the job that they want me to do."
– Ron Fitch
"I was getting a two-year certificate when a job opportunity came my way. Because I was already taking classes at Delta, I was able to get the job. I’ve always worked, but now I’ll have the piece of paper to go with it."
– Lee McChesney
Careers and Job Outlook
The Great Lakes Bay Region is among the highest employment areas in the nation for chemical process operators. Local employers include The Dow Chemical Company, Dow Corning Corporation, and others. At this time, Dow Corning will consider certificate completers and Dow Chemical requires the associate degree.
State of Michigan average earnings: $55,330
Source: Michigan Department of Career Development, 2011 Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates of Michigan Occupational Information System
National average earnings: $54,150
Source: May 2012 Occupational Employment Statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics at www.bls.gov/oes.
Find Out More
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