Become a Packaging Engineer: Education and Career Roadmap

Should I Become a Packaging Engineer?

Packaging engineers develop packaging for a company's products, with the goal of making the package both functional and cost-effective. They choose the materials, methods and machinery that go into the production of packaging supplies, and they develop production methods that eliminate waste and unnecessary spending. Travel is often required. These engineers need good communication skills so they can interact effectively with other engineers and with various business professionals. The following table summarizes the basic requirements for packaging engineers:

Career Requirements

Degree Level A bachelor's degree is generally required to work as a packaging engineer
Degree Field Packaging engineering or a related engineering field
Licensure Licensure for industrial engineers is available, but typically not required for packaging engineers
Experience Some positions require no experience; however, some employers may require up to seven years of experience
Key Skills Good communication, critical thinking, problem-solving and mathematics skills; skilled at multitasking, technical writing and project management; experience with statistical analysis, computer-aided design (CAD), scripting language, system design, industrial control and project management software; familiarity with microcontrollers, signal generators and sound measuring apparatuses
Salary $81,490 per year (Median Salary from May, 2014 for industrial engineers, which includes packaging engineers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job postings in December 2012, O Net OnLine

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Most employers require packaging engineers to have at least bachelor's degrees, preferably in packaging engineering, although a related engineering field may also be appropriate. Students enrolled in bachelor's degree programs in packaging engineering take courses that include both classroom and laboratory components. Packaging engineering is a field that draws from a number of different disciplines, combining aspects of chemistry, physics, materials science and engineering; students in packaging engineering programs take a wide variety courses to build a broad base of knowledge. Coursework may include study of materials, manufacturing, marketing, mathematics, CAD, automation, economics, supply chain management and accounting.

Step 2: Hone Related Skills

Packaging engineers should have good interpersonal and communication skills since they must interact with a number of different people, such as suppliers, product managers, manufacturers and marketers. They also need to establish long-term relationships with suppliers. Additionally, they are often required to have computer skills. Students in bachelor's degree programs can begin to develop these key skills by interacting with their peers and faculty. They may take courses that focus on essential communication subjects such as technical writing. Working alongside of instructors with the necessary computer programs can help students become comfortable using technology and relevant computer software.

Success Tip

  • Pursue opportunities to gain experience. Some programs offer or require internships or co-operative work experiences to students. This can be a great way to get a head start on building the necessary experience to find employment as a packaging engineer and gaining insight into the field. Students can work with experienced professionals to acquire a better understanding of the daily work of packaging engineers.

Step 3: Gain Work Experience

Although some employers do not require any previous experience, many employers require previous employment in packaging engineering, or a related field. Prospective package engineers may gain this experience through entry-level jobs working as associate engineers under the direct supervision of senior engineers, or through internships and practical experience courses in college. Many employers require job candidates to be knowledgeable in packaging materials, processes, distribution, sourcing, design, technologies and testing, as well as project management. Gaining work experience in a related area can help familiarize a person with these concepts and help prepare him or her to work as a packaging engineer.

Step 4: Pursue Career Advancement

After gaining solid experience, individuals may qualify for advancement to managerial and other leadership roles. Earning a graduate degree in a relevant engineering field may expedite promotion in some cases.

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