Packaging Engineers


Education and Training Requirements

High School

During high school, you should take classes that will prepare you for a college engineering education. Concentrate on mathematics, including algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus, as well as sciences, including physics and chemistry. You will also benefit from taking computer science, mechanical drawing, economics, and accounting classes. English, art, computer-aided design, and graphic arts classes are also recommended.

Postsecondary Training

Several colleges and universities offer a major in packaging engineering. These programs may be offered through an engineering school or a school of packaging within a university. Both bachelor of science and master of science degrees are available. It generally takes four or five years to earn a bachelor's degree and two additional years to earn a master's degree. A master's degree is not required to be a packaging engineer, although many professionals pursue advanced degrees, particularly if they plan to specialize in a specific area or do research. Many students take their first job in packaging once they have earned a bachelor's degree, while other students earn a master's degree immediately upon completing their undergraduate studies.

Students interested in this field often structure their own programs. In college, if no major is offered in packaging engineering, students can choose a related discipline, such as mechanical, industrial, electrical, chemical, materials, or systems engineering. It is useful to take courses in graphic design, computer science, marketing, and management.

Students enrolled in a packaging engineering program usually take the following courses during their first two years: algebra, trigonometry, calculus, chemistry, physics, accounting, economics, finance, and communications. During the remaining years, classes focus on core packaging subjects, such as packaging materials, package development, packaging line machinery, and product protection and distribution. Elective classes include topics concentrating on packaging and the environment, packaging laws and regulation, and technical classes on specific materials. Graduate studies, or those classes necessary to earn a master's degree, include advanced classes in design, analysis, and materials and packaging processes.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

The Institute of Packaging Professionals, a professional society, offers two levels of certification: certified professional in training (CPIT) and certified packaging professional (CPP). The CPIT is available to college students, recent graduates, and professionals who have less than six years of experience in the field. Requirements for this certification include passing a multiple-choice test. The CPP can be earned by those with at least six years of experience in the field. In addition to the experience requirement, candidates must pass a multiple choice test and fulfill one of the following additional requirements: answer three narrative/essay questions, complete a detailed resume form, write a paper, or submit proof of a patent granted. Although certification is not required, many professional engineers obtain it to show that they have mastered specified requirements and have reached a certain level of expertise.

For those interested in working with the specialized field of military packaging technology, the Defense Logistics Agency offers a list of training resources on its Web site, https://www.dla.mil/LandandMaritime/Offers/Services/TechnicalSupport/Logistics/Packaging/PackTrainResource.aspx.

Special licensing is required for engineers whose work affects the safety of the public. Much of the work of packaging engineers, however, does not require a license even though their work affects such factors as food and drug spoilage, protection from hazardous materials, and protection from damage. Licensing laws vary from state to state, but, in general, states have similar requirements. They require that an engineer must be a graduate of an approved engineering school, have four years of engineering experience, and pass the state licensing examination. A state board of engineering examiners administers the licensing and registration of engineers.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

You will need a bachelor's degree to be a packaging engineer, preferably in packaging development or material science. An internship or co-op is recommended to be a competitive applicant.

Packaging engineers should have the ability to solve problems and think analytically and creatively. They must work well with people, both as a leader and as a team player. They should also be able to write and speak well in order to deal effectively with other workers and customers, and in order to document procedures and policies. In addition, a packaging engineer should have the ability to manage projects and people. As technology changes, the most successful packaging engineers will be those who have the desire to enhance their education and technicial skills throughout their career.