Paper Processing Workers


Employment Prospects


Paper goods machine setters, operators, and tenders hold approximately 97,960 jobs. This employment is scattered throughout the United States based on the location of the mills. However, the largest American producer of paper is International Paper, which is based in Memphis, Tennessee.

Although their number is decreasing, there are still many smaller mills throughout the United States. The distribution of pulp and paper mills tends to be heaviest where there are a lot of logging and sawmill operations.

Starting Out

Many pulp and paper companies advertise their openings on their Web sites,,, and other job Web sites (such as

Paper production workers usually begin as laborers or helpers and move up to more skilled jobs as they gain experience and skill. Competition for these more highly skilled jobs, which tend to pay better than comparable jobs, is intense.

Advancement Prospects

Job progress in pulp and paper plants usually takes the form of promotion from routine, semiskilled jobs to positions requiring considerable technical skill and independent judgment, such as that of the paper-machine operator. However, as the papermaking process becomes more automated, even entry-level positions may require computer literacy and good math skills.

Traditionally, advancement in this industry has been limited to specific work areas. For example, a worker involved in the pulping stage of operations could not easily transfer to the papermaking stage without starting over at an entry-level position.

After gaining several years' experience, workers are often given the opportunity to advance within their area of expertise. Such positions as production supervisor, paper final inspector, paper testing supervisor, pulp plant supervisor, and control inspector are examples of advancement possibilities. Workers with exceptional competence and supervisory ability may become supervisors of plant sections or of an entire phase of operations. Also, production workers who continue their educations and receive degrees in science may obtain positions as laboratory and testing technicians or engineers. A degree in engineering can often replace ten years of on-the-job experience for higher level positions in a paper mill.

Tips for Entry

Visit a factory to help determine if it the right work environment for you. Visit to find a factory open for tours.

Familiarize yourself with the process by making your own paper. Instructions are available online, including on YouTube.

Learn about the process of paper recycling, which is a critical component of paper processing and one that is likely to increase, by visiting

Learn about new technologies affecting the paper processing industry by visiting this page from FSCN – Fibre Science and Communication Network, a multi-disciplinary research centre at Mid Sweden University: