Paper and Wood Products Technology

Paper and wood products are found everywhere, including the chair you're sitting on and the newspaper you read in the morning. Read on to learn more about the education requirements and employment options for professionals working in the field of paper and wood technology.

Is Paper and Wood Products Technology for Me?

Career Overview

Paper and wood products technology professionals develop, test, manufacture and design wood and paper goods. You might find work at firms that manufacture pulp, paper or wood products, as well as companies that sell supplies to those firms. The chemical processing industry, governments and home improvement stores are other potential employers.

Career Options and Duties

As a procurement forester, you'll assess the value of trees on a property and negotiate to buy the timber. If you decide to become a chemical engineer, you'll design, improve and test methods for manufacturing paper, pulp and other products. Industrial engineers also design and improve the efficiency of production methods by evaluating equipment and labor and determining the best use of materials. As a woodworker, you'll use wood, tools and machinery to build furniture, cabinets and other goods. Potential careers in paper and wood products technology might also include a position as a sales representative, quality control specialist, market research analyst, process control technician or mill manager.

Employment and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for chemical and industrial engineers, as well as foresters, are projected to grow by slower than average nationwide between 2012 and 2022. Job openings for woodworkers expected to increase by an average rate during the same period.

In May 2013, foresters and woodworkers earned median annual salaries of $57,110 and $27,590, respectively, as reported by the BLS. In the same month, chemical and industrial engineers earned corresponding median salaries of $95,730 and $80,300 a year (www.bls.gov).

How Can I Work in Paper and Wood Products Technology?

Program Overview

In a paper and wood products technology program, you'll learn how trees are responsibly harvested and processed into a variety of related products. You'll also find out how wood can be combined with other materials to produce fuel, film, furniture, fabrics and plastic.

Certificate and Associate Degree Programs

Certificate and associate degree programs in pulp and paper technology or paper and chemical technology can help you prepare for a job at a paper mill, pulp plant, chemical factory or supply company. Associate degree programs in particular may lead to a career in home construction or furniture manufacturing and marketing. Core coursework might include topics in instrumentation, process control and production methods. You might also take classes in computer technology, science and mathematics. Most woodworkers receive on-the-job training; individual schools may offer vocational courses or programs.

Bachelor's Degree Programs

Undergraduate degree programs in paper and wood products technology may lead to a Bachelor of Science in Paper Science and Engineering or Wood Products. Four-year programs in forestry are also available. Some programs allow for concentrations in forest utilization or wood processing. If you're more interested in promoting and selling the products, you might also consider a Bachelor of Science in Wood Products Business Management or a minor in wood products marketing. Course topics can include studies in basic wood sciences, environmental concerns and manufacturing processes; cooperative education experiences and industry internships may also be required.

Graduate Degree Programs

Graduate programs may lead to a Master of Science in Forestry or a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Forest Resources Sciences. Master of Science in Paper, Science and Engineering programs are also available. An advanced degree is usually required to obtain a position in postsecondary education or research and development, especially in chemical or industrial engineering. Some engineering programs offer 5-year courses of study that can lead to a combined bachelor's and master's degree.

Licensing Requirements

Some states require foresters to be certified, licensed or registered. Chemical or industrial engineering students who graduate from a program that has been approved by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) can apply for a voluntary Professional Engineer (PE) license. In general, licensing requirements usually include completion of an accredited educational program, professional experience and a passing score on an exam.

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