Individuals who desire to work in the pulp and paper production industry could benefit from an education program in paper engineering. Pulp and paper engineering programs are available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Undergraduate certificate programs prepare students for engineering technician careers and can be completed in less than one year. Bachelor's and master's degree programs may qualify graduates to become licensed engineers.
Engineers who work with the public are required to have state licensure. Though exact requirements may vary slightly state-to-state, they typically include completing an ABET-accredited degree program and having several years of experience.
Certificate in Pulp and Paper Engineering
In post-secondary programs that confer a Pulp and Paper Engineering Certificate, Paper Science Certificate or related certificate, paper science engineering students concentrate on technical learning. They reinforce theory learned in the classroom with participation in lab work, which is a significant part of the program. Students prepare for entry-level positions in the papermaking industry by learning the fundamentals of bleaching, chemistry, pulping, paper science and math. Programs take 1-2 semesters to complete. Applicants are expected to have completed high school and earned a diploma or the equivalent.
Prospective paper engineering technicians learn the chemical and mechanical processes that turn trees into sheets of paper and other paper-based products. The curriculum may be designed to prepare students for bachelor's degree programs in paper science. Topics of study include:
- Paper making
- Paper science
Bachelor of Science in Paper Science and Engineering
Students in these programs, which may be accredited by ABET, learn more about the science behind the concept and process of papermaking. While earning a 4-year degree such as a Bachelor of Science in Paper Science and Engineering, students take classes in math, business, environmental technology and statistics. Students are expected to participate in a significant amount of laboratory work, applying classroom theory to real-world experiments. Schools generally expect that applicants are high school graduates.
The science and manufacturing processes necessary for turning wood pulp and other raw materials into paper is the focus of this degree program. These types of programs often include courses in:
- Biomaterials engineering
- Molecular science
- Organic chemistry
- Fluid mechanics
Master's Degree in Paper Engineering
Degrees available include Master of Science in Paper Science and Engineering and Master of Chemical Engineering with a concentration in pulp and paper engineering. Programs may invite collaboration from departments of biomolecular and chemical engineering, mechanical engineering or materials science. Students learn to engineer chemical reactions and think critically about processing and engineering problem-solving as it relates to pulp and paper science. Students can expect to complete their degrees in about two years, although schools may offer up to five years to finish with a bachelor's and a master's degree in paper science. These programs do not typically require completion of a master's thesis.
Graduate students take an interdisciplinary approach to using chemical and mechanical processes to transform raw materials into finished paper products, with an eye toward research and development. Material covered in these types of programs includes:
- Chemical analysis
- Environmental degradation
- Hazardous materials management
- Process modeling
- Transport phenomena
According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 34,300 chemical engineers employed across various fields, including paper engineering as of 2014. Among these, master's program graduates were qualified to find work in sales and marketing, research and development, production and administration related to paper engineering. Job titles may include:
- Mill superintendent
- Paper applications specialist
- Paper engineer
- Plant engineering leader
- Process engineer
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the 2014-2024 job forecast, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) anticipated 2% growth in the number of job opportunities for chemical engineers, among which paper engineering professionals are counted (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported that chemical engineers earned a median annual wage of $97,360 as of 2015.
Doctoral programs in chemical and paper engineering exist for students interested in careers in academia and research. Ph.D. programs may require approximately 30 credits beyond the master's degree plus qualifying examinations and completion of a dissertation.
Paper engineering, or pulp and paper science, is a process engineering specialization within the field of chemical engineering. Programs are available at the master's degree, bachelor's degree and certification levels.