Should I Become a Polymer Engineer?
Polymer engineers design and engineer polymers for a wide variety of uses, from household products, like shower curtains and water bottles, to materials that go into making automobiles and industrial piping. They usually work full-time in office or laboratory environments, and they might work overtime when needed.
Polymer engineers need math and analytical skills and the ability to work in a team; they must be familiar with field-specific software, such as C++, G&P Engineering Software, EngVert, and CAD; and be able to use chromatographic scanners, vial handling systems, and agitators. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies polymer engineers among materials engineers; these professionals earned an average annual salary of $94,690 as of May 2015.
Let's find out how you can become a polymer engineer.
|Degree Level||Bachelor's degree required; many employers prefer a graduate degree|
|Degree Field||Polymer, chemical, or materials engineering|
|Experience||At least 5 years of experience required for many positions|
|Key Skills||Math skills; analytical skills; teamwork; familiarity with field-specific software, such as C++, G&P Engineering Software, EngVert, and CAD; ability to use chromatographic scanners, vial handling systems, and agitators|
|Salary (2015)||$94,690 yearly (median for all materials engineers)|
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; O*Net OnLine; Job postings (December 2012)
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
Aspiring polymer engineers might opt to complete a bachelor's degree program in polymer engineering. Depending on the institution, this might be a specialty in a chemical or mechanical engineering program. Polymer engineering students gain in-depth knowledge of the behavior of polymer materials during processing. Curricula include extensive laboratory work, and students often have the opportunity to assist faculty members with research. Another option for aspiring polymer engineers is to pursue a degree in materials engineering.
Here's a tip for success:
- Consider a combined bachelor's and master's degree program. Some engineering programs allow students to complete both degrees in five years. An engineering graduate might have an advantage in finding employment if he or she has a master's degree. Also, if a student decides to focus on research and development later, he or she will need at least a master's degree.
Find schools that offer these popular programs
- Analytical Chemistry
- Chemical Physics
- Inorganic Chemistry
- Organic Chemistry
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
- Polymer Chemistry
Step 2: Find Entry-Level Work
Some entry-level positions in polymer engineering are open to those with bachelor's degrees. Engineers fresh out of college often work under the guidance of senior engineers. Additionally, some larger companies provide classroom training for new employees.
Step 3: Consider Licensure
Although not a requirement for all polymer engineering positions, earning the title of Professional Engineer enables an individual to provide public services directly, without working under another engineer. A professional engineer can submit bids for government grants, work as an independent consultant, or work with the public on projects.
Licensing requirements and regulations vary by state, but they typically follow a basic 4-step process, beginning with earning a relevant bachelor's degree. Potential engineers must then pass an exam covering the fundamentals of engineering. Next, candidates typically must gain a minimum of four years of work experience as an engineer before applying for the Principals and Practice of Engineering exam. In most cases, state licenses are mutually recognized. Some states require continuing education for upkeep of the engineering license.
Step 4: Consider a Graduate Degree or Certificate
Many upper-level research or management positions require a Master of Science or Ph.D. in Engineering. A Ph.D. is also necessary for application to a tenured faculty position at a college or university. Programs focus on both research and development of the more complex functions and applications of polymers. Graduate certificate programs in polymer engineering are less time-intensive than degree programs and might allow those with a graduate degree in another technical area to prepare for work in this field.
To recap, a polymer engineer needs at least a bachelor's degree in polymer, chemical, or materials engineering. Licensure and advanced education could lead to more and better job prospects in this field.