Packaging engineers work at research and development firms, laboratories, and manufacturing plants to design packaging materials for various products. They conduct experiments and build prototypes with metals, plastics, and other materials to create protective containers and wraps. A person who wants to become a packaging engineer usually needs to obtain at least a bachelor's degree in engineering from an accredited university. In addition, a new worker is typically required to earn regional or national licensure by passing a series of exams.
An individual who believes that he or she might want to become a packaging engineer can begin developing skills and knowledge in high school classes. Advanced courses in chemistry, physics, and mathematics can provide a hopeful engineer with a fundamental understanding of the scientific principles he or she will employ in an eventual career. A student can gain important skills in computer science, language, and communications classes.
A bachelor's degree is typically the minimum educational requirement to become a packaging engineer. A few accredited colleges offer degrees specifically in packaging engineering, but most future workers enroll in mechanical engineering or chemistry programs. As an undergraduate, a student receives detailed classroom and laboratory instruction from knowledgeable science professors. An engineering student often has the opportunity to take drafting and design courses as well to develop his or her technical skills. Most bachelor's programs can be completed in four to five years, though some students choose to enter advanced degree programs upon graduation to improve their credentials and their understanding of the trade.
With a degree, a person who wants to become a packaging engineer can take the first of a series of regional licensing exams and apply for entry-level positions at food processing facilities, retail manufacturing plants, and research and development corporations. A new engineer typically begins his or her career as an assistant in order to gain practical experience under the guidance and supervision of established professionals. An assistant is typically responsible for setting up testing equipment, writing government grant or private funding proposals, and entering data into computer systems. With experience, he or she may be given additional responsibilities.
After gaining about four years of experience in an entry-level job, an individual can take a second licensing test to officially become a packaging engineer. A licensed professional is qualified to conduct independent research and lead teams of other engineers on projects. With success and several years of experience, an engineer may have the opportunity to advance further within a company to the ranks of a head supervisor or even an executive.