Plastics Engineers


Education and Training Requirements

High School

Engineers will need to take college-prep classes in high school. You should take additional classes in mathematics, including algebra, trigonometry, and calculus, and the sciences, particularly biology, chemistry, and physics. English and communications classes are helpful for research and writing needed in engineering work. Computer programming classes are also essential.

Postsecondary Training

The level of education required beyond high school for plastics engineers varies greatly depending on the types of plastics processes involved. Companies that design proprietary parts usually require a bachelor's or advanced degree in mechanical engineering. The field of plastics engineering, overall, is still a field where people with the proper experience are scarce—experience is a key factor in qualifying a person for an engineering position.

A small percentage of engineering schools offer a degree in plastics engineering. Plastics programs are sometimes listed under polymer science, polymer engineering, materials science, and materials engineering. Many schools also offer a certificate program after a person has earned a bachelor's degree in engineering.

Students who plan to enter the military should investigate branches of service that offer training in plastics. The United States Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard, and Army publish procurement specifications, operate repair facilities, and carry on their own research and development.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Currently, licensing requirements or certification programs do not exist for plastics engineers.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Consider participating in an engineering internship while in college. An internship is usually part of a four-year degree program. It offers you a chance to apply what you have learned in the classroom to a work situation. It also allows you to build skills and make contacts with people in the field.

Plastics engineers need to have good mechanical aptitude in order to develop the plastics parts and the tooling necessary to develop these parts. You must have thorough knowledge of the properties of plastic and of the processes that occur. There are thousands of different materials that you may encounter in the course of your workday. You also must be imaginative and creative in order to be able to solve any problems that might arise from new applications or in the transition/transformation of a mechanical metal part to that of a plastic one. Strong communications skills and the ability to work well with others is also important in the plastics engineer field.