It could be that you are just starting out your career as a chemical engineer or maybe considering a pivot in a new direction, this list of 15 cities will help you make your decision easier. These aren’t just the best-paying cities for chemical engineers. Salary is of course included as a factor in our criteria, but so is:
- Number of chemical engineer job openings by city.
- The ratio of chemical engineer jobs to the civilian employed population by city (the higher the ratio, the better).
- Livability of the city, a composite score of various factors such as access to amenities, commute, crime, and health.
- Median rental price for all homes by city.
- Median list price for all homes by city.
- Overall cost of living index, in which 100 represents the national average; above this is more expensive, and below less.
We also considered the presence of the highest-paying industries for chemical engineers in each of the cities we analyzed. (See the methodology section).
So, without further ado, find out best cities for chemical engineers in 2024.
Table of Contents
15 Best cities for chemical engineers in 2024
Each one of the factors mentioned above was given a score and then all scores were added up for a final, combined score. This then enabled use to rank the top cities for chemical engineering jobs. In general, chemical engineer salaries tend to be well-above the average pay for most occupations: The average chemical engineer salary is $117,820 versus $61,900 for All Occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
However, there are certain industries in which chemical engineers can make even more money. According to the BLS, the top paying industries for chemical engineers are:
|Percent of industry employment
|Annual mean wage
|Oil and Gas Extraction
|Pipeline Transportation of Crude Oil
|Merchant Wholesalers, Nondurable Goods
|Petroleum and Coal Products Manufacturing
|Waste Treatment and Disposal
Interestingly, none of the five above-mentioned industries overlap with the top five industries who employ the highest numbers of chemical engineers (below):
|Percent of industry employment
|Annual mean wage
|Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services
|Scientific Research and Development Services
|Pharmaceutical and Medicine Manufacturing
|Management of Companies and Enterprises
Not coincidentally, some of our best cities for chemical engineer jobs tend to incorporate some of the higher-paying industries. Of course, it takes some time for you to work your way up to these six-figure salaries. The average chemical engineer starting salary is $87,487, which is still better than $61,900 for All Occupations, but noticeably less than the average chemical engineer salary of $117,820.
Now, let’s take a close look at the top U.S. cities for chemical engineers:
1. Houston, TX
Houston is certainly, and has been for a time, one of America’s major centers for engineering careers. According to Houston’s latest annual comprehensive financial report for 2023, two of the top 10 employers of Houston residents are ExxonMobil and Schlumberger — SLB, the world’s largest offshore drilling company and contractor in the world by revenue.
In our analysis to identify the best cities for chemical engineers, the average annual salary for Houston chemical engineers — at $158,690 — is the highest in the whole study. And that paycheck goes farther than in many other places in the U.S. Houston’s overall cost of living is cheaper than the national average. Additionally, based on Zillow data, the median list price in Houston is $355,283, which is actually a bit less than the U.S. median home price of $389,967. Rent too in the Houston area is cheaper than the national average: $1,658.54 a month in Houston versus $1,981.60 for America overall. Houston’s ranking No. 1 on our list was also helped by the fact that Harris County, which is centered on Houston, is home to a substantial Oil and Gas Extraction industry — the highest paying for chemical engineers. Out of all the counties in the country, Harris County boasts both the largest number of Oil and Gas Extraction employees and the largest annual payroll, at more than $2 billion.
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2. Baton Rouge, LA
The capital of Louisiana ranks as the No. 2 best city for chemical engineers. With average annual pay that’s almost $30,000 higher than the national average, the average chemical engineer salary in Baton Rouge is the third highest in our study. When you add in cheaper-than-average costs of living and a median home price of just under $278,000, chemical engineers in Baton Rouge can do quite well on their average salary.
There’s also a notably high concentration of chemical engineers working in Baton Rouge. The BLS uses a metric called a location quotient to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single city compared to the nation as a whole: When the location quotient (LQ) is equal to 1, then the industry has the same share of its area employment as does the country overall; if it is markedly higher than 1, then that means there’s a greater concentration of this type of job than elsewhere. In Baton Rouge, the LQ for chemical engineers is a full 8.84, meaning that employment in chemical engineering here is 8.84 times that of the concentration in the U.S. as a whole.
Perhaps not surprisingly, some of the top employers of Baton Rouge residents include Turner Industries, Louisiana State University (which has an excellent engineering department), and Performance Contractors, a major industrial and engineering firm.
3. Akron, OH
Akron may be located right in the middle of America’s “Rust Belt,” but it has remained resilient. According to the BLS, around 38,000 people out of Akron’s 89,775 civilian employed population work in manufacturing. Part of what makes Akron rank No. 3 on our list is that ample pay chemical engineers receive compared to the city’s cost of living.
With an average chemical engineer salary of $122,860, Akron’s annual pay is higher than the U.S. overall ($117,820). Plus, in Akron, the median list price for a home is only $202,967, while overall cost of living is 14% less than the nation overall, meaning your chemical engineer salary goes a long way here. What’s more, Akron is home to the headquarters of FirstEnergy, which owns one of the nation’s largest investor-owned electric systems, approximately 24,000 miles of transmission lines that connect the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions, and a regulated generating fleet with a total capacity of more than 3,500 megawatts. Lastly, Akron sports a livability score of 80 (out of 100), which is better than the majority of cities in our study.
4. Albany, NY
Albany is the first and only New York city to make our list of the best cities for chemical engineers. Albany primarily ranks so well due to a combo of its average chemical engineer salary being higher than the national average plus it being enough to handily manage the lower costs of living in New York’s capital. For instance, Albany’s median home price is $306,633, but still over $80,000 less than the current U.S. median price. What’s more, organizations and businesses like the Research Foundation of SUNY and AMRI (Albany Molecular Research Inc.) are based in Albany and employ countless chemical engineers.
5. Kennewick, WA
Located in southeastern Washington state, Kennewick has the highest concentration of chemical engineers, with a location quotient of 15.28, meaning that employment in chemical engineering here is over 15 times that of the concentration in the U.S. as a whole. The average chemical engineer salary in Kennewick ranks among the highest in our study.
Looking at the principal employers in Kennewick, it makes sense that this city is so great for chemical engineers. Top employers include Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Lamb Weston, Washington River Protection Solutions, Central Plateau Cleanup Company (CPCCo), and Bechtel.
6. Corpus Christi, TX
Corpus Christi is another of several Texas cities to make our list of the best places for chemical engineers. This Gulf Coast city has a higher-than-average concentration of chemical engineer workers, having a location quotient of 4.16 and thus has over four times as many chemical engineers employed in Corpus Christi versus the U.S. overall.
With a high average chemical engineer salary — $132,710 versus $177,820 national average — and an overall cost of living that’s over 10% cheaper than the U.S. as a whole, Corpus Christi came in as the No. 6 best city for chemical engineers in America. Additionally, many of the top employers in Corpus Christi are heavily reliant on engineers, such as Bay Ltd., Kiewit, and U.S. naval and army installations.
7. Pittsburgh, PA
The second largest city in Pennsylvania came in as the No. 7 best city for chemical engineers in the U.S. due to a variety of factors. Although the average chemical engineer salary in Pittsburgh is $1,000 less than the national rate, Pittsburgh has a lower-than-average overall cost of living, with the median home price being only $221,633 versus $389,967 for the U.S. overall. Pittsburgh’s livability score is an excellent 82, and the ratio of chemical engineer job openings to the city’s civilian employed population is high.
8. Dallas, TX
Dallas is now the third Texas city to rank in our top 20 list of the best cities for chemical engineers. The average chemical engineer salary in Dallas is the 5th highest in the study, at $141,010 per year. Dallas is also home to branches and headquarters of several big-name technology and engineering firms, like Texas Instruments, Occidental Petroleum, Lockheed Martin in the Dallas suburb of Grand Prairie, among many others.
9. Kalamazoo, MI
Located in western Michigan, Kalamazoo ranks as the No. 10 best city for chemical engineers on our list. With a civilian employed population of only just over 37,000, Kalamazoo has a high ratio of chemical engineer job openings compared to the size of the workforce — which is a good thing. Although Kalamazoo’s average chemical engineer salary is less than the national average of $117,820, overall cost of living in the city is almost 15% cheaper compared to the rest of the country. This makes that salary stretch much farther. Plus, there are major companies that employ chemical engineers in Kalamazoo, including Western Michigan University, Stryker Corporation, Pfizer, and Parker Hannifin.
10. Atlanta, GA
The employment of chemical engineers in Atlanta has steadily increased year-over-year. Boasting an average chemical engineer salary of $130,090, it’s not hard to see why their numbers have increased in recent years. Although Atlanta, and especially its suburbs, have gotten more expensive over the years, overall cost of living is still less than the national average. And the median home price in Atlanta is $382,667, just slightly less than the national median price. Atlanta stands out with an excellent 82 livability score. Meanwhile, Waste Treatment and Disposal, which is the 5th highest paying industry for chemical engineers, is particular prominent in Fulton County, which covers most of Atlanta.
11. Beaumont, TX
In 1901, a well in the oil field of Spindletop in Beaumont, Texas, struck oil and launched a gusher that blew for nine days, expending approximately 100,000 barrels of oil a day. Thus, Beaumont has long been a center of energy and engineering. Gas and Oil Extraction, and Pipeline Transportation of Crude Oil, 2 of the 5 highest paying industries for chemical engineers, have a major presence in Beaumont.
Beaumont ranked highly on our list of the best cities for chemical engineers due to several factors. First, it has a disproportionately high number of chemical engineer job openings compared to its employed civilian population. Second, housing is cheap in Beaumont, with the median rent being an estimated $1,135.48 and the median home price $216,450; with an average chemical engineer salary of over $130,000, these living expenses are very manageable.
12. Midland, TX
Sitting in the Permian Basin — the top producing oil field in the U.S. — Midland, Texas, came in as the No. 11 best city for chemical engineers. Being at the heart of America’s oil and natural gas production, Midland has always had a robust energy sector. And that energy sector requires engineers.
Midland is not as cheap as it used to be. According to Zillow, its median home price is $368,300, which is higher than the Houston area but less than the national median price of $389,967. Still, with an average chemical engineer salary of $134,480 and an over cost of living that’s cheaper than the rest of the country helps make Midland one of the best places for chemical engineer jobs. What also helped is the fact that the Oil and Gas Extraction industry is the highest paying industry for chemical engineers, and in Midland, this industry dominates.
13. Albuquerque, NM
In recent years, New Mexico has been making a very concerted push toward developing an engineering and technology infrastructure on an unprecedented scale for the state. For example, Intel New Mexico is working with the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions and the New Mexico Economic Development Department to further develop Intel’s longstanding Innovation Hub.
The average chemical engineer salary in Albuquerque — $146,210 — is the second highest in the study, behind only Houston’s $158,690. Cost of living in general is cheaper than most of the country, but Albuquerque’s median home price of $378,541 is only about $10,000 less than the U.S. median home price.
14. Oklahoma City, OK
The capital and largest city in Oklahoma ranks No. 14 on our list of the best cities for chemical engineers. In Oklahoma City, the average chemical engineer salary is about $10,000 more than the national average, while at the same time, the city’s overall cost of living is significantly lower than most other major cities in the U.S. Both the median rent and median list price for a home in Oklahoma City are cheaper than their respective national median rent and median list price. Furthermore, the highest paying industry for chemical engineers — Oil and Gas Extraction — has a huge presence in Oklahoma County (where Oklahoma City is located), employing over 1,900 people.
15. Decatur, AL
Decatur is located in northern Alabama, along the Tennessee River, and rounds out our list of the best cities for chemical engineers. Decatur has a notably high concentration of chemical engineers, having a location quotient of 8.12 and therefore over 8 times the employment of chemical engineers versus the U.S. overall. This, combined with Decatur’s above-average chemical engineer salary and the city’s low cost of living, helped make Decatur rank among the best places for chemical engineers. It also helps that some of Decatur’s primary employers are businesses that are reliant on chemical engineers, like GE Appliances-Haier; United Launch Alliance (ULA), an American aerospace manufacturer, defense contractor and launch service provider that manufactures and operates rocket vehicles; 3M; and Nucor Steel, among others.
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Methodology and sources
This study was limited to U.S. cities with a civilian employed population of 20,000 or more, according to estimates from the Census Bureau’s 2022 American Community Survey.
Our ranking includes 9 factors, which were used to create a relative score of 1 to 10 (10 being the best, and 1 the worst). Each city was analyzed along the following criteria:
- Average annual chemical engineer salary (BLS)
- Concentration of chemical engineers via location quotient (BLS)
- Number of chemical engineer job openings by city (Glassdoor)
- The ratio of chemical engineer jobs to the civilian employed population by city; the higher the ratio, the better (Glassdoor and 2022 American Community Survey)
- Livability of the city, a composite score of various factors such as access to amenities, commute, crime, and health (Areavibes)
- Median rental price for all homes by city (Zillow)
- Median list price for all homes by city (Zillow)
- Overall cost of living index, in which 100 represents the national average; above this is more expensive, and below less (Council for Community and Economic Research)
- Employment and payroll of each of the 5 highest paying industries for chemical engineers, by county (Census Bureau – County Business Patterns)