Your world as a chemical engineer revolves around problem-solving, experimenting, and transforming raw materials into something useful. And it’s a unique skill that's not too bad financially.
But life is unpredictable. With a rising cost of living and an ever-changing job market, no one should rely 100% on their 9 – 5 to stay afloat. A good side hustle that diversifies your income and your skills is a great way to future-proof your finances.
Of course, there are a gazillion (give or take) side hustles, from dog walking to ride-sharing; all great options (especially if you’re looking for a break from your day job).
… but specific side hustles for chemical engineers not only fill your pockets, they also allow you to flex your existing knowledge and know-how. You can expand your current set of skills and position yourself better in the industry.
So, hold on to your goggles. Before we dive into our list, let’s go over some of the benefits of choosing a side hustle made just for chemical engineers…
Benefits of Side Hustles for Chemical Engineers
- Adding new, related skills to your chemical engineering credentials can make you an industry MVP and improve your career prospects.
- Chemical engineering side hustles provide opportunities to rub shoulders with other industry experts and widen your professional circle.
- Working on fun and unique projects outside your usual routine can spark fresh ideas and improve your main gig as a chemical engineer.
- A side hustle today could pave the way to a full-blown business or a new career path tomorrow.
- Of course, the obvious… more income and a stronger financial position.
Before plunging into the depths of a chemical engineering side hustle, it’s also critical to remember that it takes more than just technical know-how. Knowing how to market your side hustle to potential clients, count your pennies, sell yourself and even manage a project or two are also important skills.
To mix things up 😉… I’ll review some of those topics and provide helpful resources for each side hustle below…
Please note that the starting budgets and income potential provided in this article are only rough estimates and can vary significantly depending on various factors. These factors may include but are not limited to your location, experience level, competition, target market, marketing strategy, and overall economic conditions. The figures mentioned are not guaranteed and should be used for informational purposes only.
We encourage you to conduct thorough research and consult with professionals in your field to gain a better understanding of the costs and potential earnings associated with your chosen side hustle. For additional information on income potential, you may refer to resources such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Glassdoor, and PayScale, which provide salary and income data for various professions and industries.
Side Hustles for Chemical Engineers
1. Chemical Engineering Tutor or General Science Tutor
Picture yourself as a beacon of knowledge, guiding students through the labyrinth of chemical engineering.
Okay, maybe that’s a little much, but you can still bring your expertise and experience to students who need it. And to some, maybe you are a beacon of knowledge, especially for those struggling for a mark that gets them into the next grade.
By offering tutoring services, you reinforce your understanding of the subject and improve your communication skills. Tutoring also offers flexibility so you can work it around your main job.
To begin the journey, start by advertising your services on tutoring platforms, local community boards (online and offline), and social media.
Starting Budget Estimate: $0 – $100 – The primary investment here is your time and expertise. You might want to spend a little on advertising your services, but many online platforms allow you to do this for free.
Estimated Income Potential: The hourly rate for tutors varies widely depending on the level of expertise and the subject matter. From the data I found, tutors charge anywhere from $15 to $60 per hour.
2. Technical Writer/Science Writer, Fact Checker, Editor, Proofreader
As a technical or science writer, you can explain complex chemical engineering or science concepts to the world in an understandable way. Translate intricate jargon into engaging, digestible content that the rest of us can understand.
It’s relatively easy to find non-technical writers (although the good ones are harder to find), and the pay rates reflect an oversupply, with general freelance writers earning between $0.04 – $0.08 per word.
On the other hand, technical writers with expertise and experience can often charge between $0.50 – $1.00 per word, depending on experience and topic.
Another factor now in play is generative artificial intelligence. AI programs like ChatGPT and dedicated AI writing tools have sometimes become better than freelance writers at a fraction of the cost.
But although AI currently has a wide scope of knowledge in most subjects, it often lacks depth. That’s where writers with specialized knowledge and experience have a significant advantage. It’s also why they are still in demand.
This side hustle also refines your writing skills and refreshes your knowledge while making science more accessible to the public. And the freedom to work from anywhere as a writer is just the cherry on the top.
Start with writing platforms like Problogger and WriterAccess, then build your portfolio. With more work published, you can begin pitching your services to science magazines, technical journals, and educational facilities.
Starting Budget Estimate: $0 – $200 – Again, your main investment is your time and knowledge. You might want to create a professional website or portfolio, which could incur some costs.
Resources: How To Become a Freelance Writer
Estimated Income Potential: Established technical writers can earn rates ranging from $500 to $1000+ per 1000-word article, which works out to between $0.50 – $1.00 per word, depending on the complexity and depth of the article (as well as the purpose of the article and where it will be published).
However, new writers usually charge significantly less to build their portfolio and get work published. Rates for fact-checking, editing, and proofreading technical articles will also vary, ranging from $5 to $30 per hour, depending on the topic, as shown below…
3. Safety Consultant
Become the unseen protector of labs and chemical plants, making sure safety regulations are followed, and accidents prevented.
As a former electrician (or maybe, once an electrician, always an electrician) working in the industrial sector and being a field representative on various safety boards, I know how important safety consulting is.
This role has a real impact on people's lives. In some cases, literally. Helping to keep workplaces safe and staying updated with the latest safety protocols is a key role.
And, as a chemical engineer, by default, you’ll have training in workplace safety. You may need to brush up on specific regulations and get relevant certifications, but since safety is intrinsic to your work, you are uniquely qualified for this side hustle.
Starting Budget Estimate: $500 – $2,000 – You may need to invest in certification courses and marketing your services. Additionally, you might need some basic office setup and software.
Estimated Income Potential: Safety consultants can earn between $35 and $60 per hour, although one company (they did not provide their name) posted a chemist safety consultant job paying $10 – $100 per hour. It was a 3-month contract, but I can't explain why there is such a wide hourly pay range.
Either way, job postings will have changed by the time you read this. You can find these jobs posted on regular job boards like Indeed, Upwork, etc.
More Side Hustles
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Side Hustles for Mechanical Engineers
Side Hustles for Data Engineers
Side Hustles for Civil Engineers
Side Hustles for Audio Engineers
Side Hustles for Accountants
Side Hustles to Pay Rent
4. Chemical Engineering Blogger or YouTuber
It surprises some, but bloggers and YouTubers do generate income. In some cases, significant income.
In my case, I stumbled into it. I started blogging for fun and found out later it was possible to make money this way. Having specialized knowledge in a particular field, like chemical engineering, gives you a unique advantage when creating written, video, or audio content.
You can make what some might consider dull topics into engaging content that demystifies and entertains. Especially as a chemical engineer, there is surely some interesting content you can make.
This side hustle lets you build a personal brand, reach a wide audience, and earn revenue through affiliate marketing partnerships, display ads, sponsorships, etc.
It also helps you build an audience to launch other side hustles, like creating and selling your own products.
There are intangible benefits to blogging or becoming a YouTuber (provided your content is good). You become an authority in your field, giving you an advantage with potential clients, employers, etc.
Starting Budget Estimate: $100 – $1,000 – Costs for this side hustle may include a good quality camera, microphone, video editing software, and potentially website hosting fees.
Estimated Income Potential: Blogger and YouTuber income is based on viewership, ad revenue, content type, monetization strategies, etc. I can therefore range from a few bucks to thousands per month.
And again, there are other benefits, such as having more influence in your industry which can lead to other opportunities.
5. Freelance Chemical Researcher
Become a detective in the world of molecules and reactions, conducting independent research for companies or academics in your field.
This is a gig I found while doing research for freelance chemical engineers. While many chemical engineer freelancers specialize in technical writing, product formulations, or process simulation, some focus on research and development and writing research papers.
You can do online research in most fields, but with your background in chemical engineering, you can dive deep into the world of chemical processes, material properties, and innovative technologies… all of which may have inspired you to become a chemical engineer in the first place.
The benefits of this side hustle include expanding your knowledge in the field and staying up-to-date with the latest developments. Also, the flexible nature of freelance work allows you to shuffle around your main job and other commitments.
Getting started as a freelance researcher in chemical engineering involves a strong foundation of knowledge in your chosen area of research (which you probably already have). Depending on your research needs, you might need to invest in certain software or databases.
Networking with academics and industry professionals is a good way to find research opportunities, but it was platforms like Upwork, Freelancer, and even LinkedIn where I found chemical engineer researchers promoting their services.
Starting Budget Estimate: $0 – $500 – Depending on the type of research, you might need to subscribe to certain databases or purchase specific software.
Estimated Income Potential: This is another moving target. According to ZipRecruiter, Home researchers can earn as much as $58 per hour, but the entire range is $14 – $90 per hour. So, the estimated income potential here highly depends on the purpose (and importance) of the research and your client.
6. Environmental Consultant
As an environmental consultant, you can get paid to root for the planet by advising companies about the environmental impact of chemical processes.
This role ranges from hazmat gigs to sustainable engineering solutions. I also found many full-time jobs in this field, although availability will depend on where you live.
If environmental chemistry is not already your field, the best place to start is by learning about environmental regulations, sustainable practices, etc. Then, browse job boards, set up your profile on various freelance platforms, and reach out to potential clients locally.
Starting Budget Estimate: $500 – $2,000 – Similar to the safety consultant, you might need to invest in certification courses, marketing, and basic office setup.
Estimated Income Potential: Environmental Consultant rates range from $20 – $60 per hour or more, depending on project role and responsibilities.
7. Science Fiction Consultant
This is probably a dream job for some, so I included it on this list. There are no direct paths to making money with this side hustle, but the internet can be a valuable tool that allows us to connect with others and pitch ourselves.
In addition to becoming familiar with science fiction, if you’re not already, a strategy that might help you break into this field is…
- Online Networking: Connect with authors, screenwriters, producers, or other consultants on blogs, forums, social media, groups, writing platforms, etc. For example, you can take screenwriting courses that give you access to industry professionals.
You wouldn’t want to pitch yourself as a consultant immediately, but you can advise others for free in private groups to establish yourself as an authority. I’ve seen this strategy play out countless times in other groups (and niches) I belong to.
Some members emerge as experts in a particular area, and others begin reaching out to them directly for help.
- Create a Portfolio: When you do get consulting gigs, share your work. Give real examples where your expertise has been applied.
You can also start a blog where you analyze chemical science in various science fiction books, movies, comics, video games, and so on. You can also write your own science fiction novels and use those as examples.
- Start Small: Although it’s not impossible, it is unlikely to start off consulting for a big-budget movie. Instead, look for opportunities to consult on smaller projects from independent writers, filmmakers, etc.
- Pitch Yourself: Once you have experience and a portfolio, start pitching yourself as a consultant. Reach out to authors, screenwriters, and production companies. Explain your background and how you can help them create more believable science fiction.
This is not the easiest side hustle to start, but it’s a unique and fun way to combine science with art. And if you’re a bit of a sci-fi geek (like I am), there won’t be many better ways to make money.
Starting Budget Estimate: $0 – $200 – This largely depends on how you market your services. You might want to create a professional website or attend networking events.
Estimated Income Potential: While science consultants in general can earn anywhere from $11 – $80 per hour or more, the rate for science fiction consulting will vary even more.
Most gigs will be smaller and probably not pay well. But it could become a lucrative side hustle if you can build a name for yourself and break into the film and TV industry.
8. Start a Homebrewing Side Hustle
Homebrewers are like alchemists for the modern world, using their knowledge of chemistry to brew (and possibly sell) their own unique beer. This side hustle lets you combine science with creativity and create a product you can be proud of, but the obvious question is… how do you make money from brewing beer?
And it’s a good question because selling alcohol is highly regulated.
There are other ways of making money as a home brewer other than selling, but selling is still an option. Start by reviewing the beer laws and regulations in your state. With proper licensing, you can set up a legal microbrewery and brew custom beers for special events.
Keep in mind, you’ll need a dedicated space that is not your home for brewing.
Another potential way to make money brewing beer is to sell your expertise. Combine this with renting brewing equipment while “consulting” or “mentoring” aspiring homebrewers. Similar to this would be teaching local brewing classes or creating an online course.
As an intangible benefit, home brewing is a great conversation starter and a way to network, which could lead to unexpected side hustle opportunities or collaborations.
Starting Budget Estimate: $100 – $3,000 – You'll need to invest in brewing equipment, ingredients, and potentially packaging and licensing if you plan to sell your brew.
Estimated Income Potential: This is another side hustle where the income potential is difficult to pin down. There are multiple factors to consider, such as equipment costs, supplies, ingredients, and licensing (if required). How you monetize will also change this equation.
For example, the startup costs for a microbrewery are significant relative to buying and renting a few brewery kits and expertise. Online courses can sell for as much as a few hundred dollars, but you’ll have marketing costs and/or commissions to pay affiliates.
Still, this could be a decent-paying side gig for a chemical engineer passionate about it.
9. Soap/Cosmetics Maker
Picture yourself the creator of a beauty line, using your chemical knowledge to make and sell homemade soap or cosmetics.
This side hustle lets you create products that people want while creatively using your scientific skills and running your own business.
Plus, it's a great way to promote natural and sustainable products.
To start, learn about the process and safety guidelines of making soap or cosmetics at home, create unique recipes, and start selling online or at local markets.
Starting Budget Estimate: $100 – $2,000 – Costs here include equipment, ingredients, packaging, and licensing. You might also want to create a website to sell your products and spend money on marketing.
Estimated Income Potential: Income from making and selling soap will vary significantly, but we can get an idea from YouTuber Jerika Zimmerman, who sells soap wholesale, in farmer’s markets, and on Shopify and Etsy (video below).
Her soap and bath bomb business has five income streams, and the figures below represent one month…
- Direct Customers – $385.18 from local customers who reach out directly through social media or email.
- E-commerce: $2,803.44 from Etsy, Shopify, and local online platforms (web version of a farmer’s market).
- Farmers Markets: $3,163.33 sold at farmers' markets.
- Events: $1,052.28 from local events.
- Wholesale Customers: $1,833.64 in bulk sales to other businesses.
These five streams total $9,237.87 in a single month. However, she also had expenses that included banking fees, e-commerce fees, shipping, equipment, and supplies, which totaled $2,519.43.
That left her with $6,718.44 profit and $5,038.83 after setting aside 25% for taxes.
10. Science Photographer
As a science photographer, you become the artist of the scientific world, capturing scientific phenomena in stunning photos. This creative side hustle lets you combine what you might enjoy about science with your artistic side.
There are several ways to monetize science photography and a variety of potential clients who might be interested in your work, including…
- ·Stock Photography – Websites like Shutterstock, Getty Images, and Adobe Stock are always looking for unique images to add to their collections. Science photography can be a niche but lucrative category on these platforms.
- Sell Prints – If your work is particularly artistic or visually striking, you might consider selling prints. This could be done through an online platform like Etsy, at art fairs, or even through a local gallery.
- Work with Publishers – Textbook publishers, scientific magazines, and educational websites often need high-quality images to accompany their content. Reach out to these organizations directly, or consider working with a photo agency that can connect you with these types of clients.
- Teach Photography – Use your unique skills to teach others about science photography. This could be through workshops, online courses, or one-on-one tutoring.
- Collaborate with Research Institutions – Many research institutions, universities, and laboratories require high-quality images to showcase their work, whether for promotional materials, research papers, or online content.
- Grants and Competitions – Look for photography grants and competitions specifically geared towards science and nature photography. Winning can provide not only a cash prize but also exposure and credibility.
There are also more unconventional ways to make money with photography, such as…
- Virtual Tours – With the rise of virtual reality and 360-degree photography, there's a growing market for immersive experiences. You could create virtual tours of scientific phenomena or locations.
- Science Art – Combine your science photography with digital art to create unique pieces. These could be sold as prints, on merchandise, or licensed for use in various media.
- Photo Books – Compile your science photographs into a themed photo book. This could be self-published or pitched to a publisher.
- Exhibitions – Host a gallery exhibition showcasing your science photography. You could sell prints and also potentially charge an entry fee.
To get started, invest in a good camera, learn about photography techniques, choose your scientific subjects, and start capturing.
Starting Budget Estimate: $500 – $3,000 – The main cost here is a good quality camera and potential lenses. You might also need photo editing software and a website to showcase your work.
Estimated Income Potential: While most stock photography sites pay roughly $0.02 – $0.32 per image, depending on the compensation structure, some pay as much as $200 and into the thousands for extended licenses.
Professional publications pay significantly more per photo, but these jobs are harder to get. Having said that, science photographers have a relatively unique skill set and ability to provide highly specific photographs where accuracy is often required.