Plastics Engineering Schools and Colleges in the U.S.

Students interested in designing new products or improving plastics applications may choose from several certificate, undergraduate and graduate programs available at 4-year colleges and universities.

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Careers in plastics research typically require at least an associate's degree, but a bachelor's or graduate degree may be required for career advancement. Plastics engineering may be part of a school's materials engineering program.

Top 10 Materials Engineering Schools

Materials engineering programs are offered at these institutions.

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition* (2015-2016)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $46,704 Undergraduate; $46,400 Graduate
University of California - Santa Barbara Santa Barbara, CA 4-year, Public Master's, Doctoral $11,220 In-state Graduate; $26,322 Out-of-state Graduate
Northwestern University Evanston, IL 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $49,047 Undergraduate; $48,624 Graduate
Stanford University Stanford, CA 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral, Graduate Certificate $46,320 Undergraduate; $45,729 Graduate
University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $15,054 In-state Undergraduate; $15,023 In-state Graduate
Georgia Institute of Technology Atlanta, GA 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $12,204 In-state Undergraduate; $13,452 In-state Graduate
University of California - Berkeley Berkeley, CA 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's $13,431 In-state Undergraduate; $11,220 In-state Graduate
California Institute of Technology Pasadena, CA 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral, Graduate Certificate $45,390 Undergraduate; $43,710 Graduate
Cornell University Ithaca, NY 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $49,116 Undergraduate; $29,500 Graduate
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor Ann Arbor, MI 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $13,856 In-state Undergraduate; $20,638 In-state Graduate

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)

School Selection Criteria

Students interested in product development or a manufacturing profession may wish to look for schools that provide significant practical applications or internship opportunities, while those interested in the application of plastics or how to make materials more environmentally friendly may choose engineering programs that focus on scientific research. Here are some considerations for students interested in plastics engineering programs:

  • Prior to enrolling in an academic program, students should determine a desired career goal and research the educational path necessary to achieve that objective.
  • A school's equipment and software should be up to date and reflect what is used within the industry.
  • Significant practical applications or internship opportunities are important for those pursuing a career in product development or manufacturing.
  • Certificate programs in plastics engineering often take a year or less to complete and are designed to prepare students for entry-level jobs in the plastics industry. An associate's, bachelor's or graduate degree may be required for advancement.

Plastics Engineering Certificate

Certificate programs typically provide instruction geared toward plastics production and tooling. Some programs emphasize computer-aided design skills and occupational safety. Experienced plastics engineers may find these courses offer updated knowledge and skills in the field. Certificate programs often take less than a year to complete and consist of 5-10 classes.

Plastics Engineering Associate's Degree

Associate's degrees in plastics engineering may be offered as a professional degree or allow transfer to a bachelor's degree program. Students learn software applications and technical tools utilized in product development, as well as how to operate and troubleshoot equipment.

Plastics Engineering Bachelor's Degree

Some schools offer engineering bachelor's degree programs with a concentration in plastics design and manufacturing. Coursework and practical application prepare graduates to work with polymer plastics and rubbers as well as paints, adhesives and coatings. Bachelor's degree programs are typically completed in four years, though students who transfer from an associate's degree program may be able to earn a bachelor's degree in two additional years. Additional requirements often include an internship and capstone project.

Plastics Engineering Master's Degree

In addition to master's programs in plastics engineering, some schools include plastics studies in manufacturing and materials engineering programs. Some programs introduce multiple materials and instruct students on combined application methods. Hands-on training may be included in some programs, and students may focus studies on product development, processing or research in specific industries, such as biomedical or renewable resources. Students can choose from thesis and non-thesis program options.

There are a number of colleges and universities that offer materials or plastics engineering programs throughout the United States. Most schools offer both graduate and undergraduate studies, and prospective students should consider their career goals when choosing a school, as well as looking at costs, the school's technology and internship options.

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