What is a Paper Science and Engineering Degree?

Degree programs in paper science and engineering focus on the science and technology involved in the development of paper products. Students learn how wood is transformed into pulp and how pulp becomes paper. The curriculum for this field of study includes courses in chemistry and the chemical properties of wood, mathematics, physics, engineering, manufacturing, and environmental science.

Paper science engineers apply this knowledge to design and develop technologies, processes, and equipment that can efficiently convert wood, recycled paper, and other raw materials into pulp and paper products.

Program Options

It is important to select a program that is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).

Certificate or Associate Degree in Paper Science and Engineering – Two Year Duration
Some schools offer either a certificate or associate degree in the field. In general, this level of education prepares students for further study at the bachelor’s level or for junior positions.

Here are some common courses in a certificate or associate program:

  • Pulp and Paper Industry Overview – basic product technologies, economics of the industry, challenges faced by the industry
  • Paper Manufacture – the papermaking process, machinery involved
  • Introduction to Pulp and Paper Testing – tests conducted and test equipment used in pulp and paper mills
  • Environmental Control – examination of liquid and gas waste resulting from the manufacture of pulp and paper
  • Paper Quality – paper qualities and quality control
  • Finishing and Converting Operations – the final stages of paper and paperboard manufacture, processes involved in the manufacture of corrugated board, cartons, and specialty papers

Bachelor’s Degree in Paper Science and Engineering – Four Year Duration
A Bachelor’s Degree in Paper Science and Engineering is held by most professionals working in the industry. The following is an overview of the typical bachelor’s curriculum:

  • Molecular Chemistry
  • Engineering and Problem-Solving
  • Calculus
  • Academic Research and Writing
  • Quantitative Chemistry
  • Economics
  • Physics for Engineers
  • Pulping and Papermaking Technology
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Engineering Thermodynamics
  • Wood and Pulping Chemistry
  • Pulp and Paper Products and Markets
  • Bioenergy and Biomaterials Engineering
  • Paper Process Analysis

Master’s Degree in Paper Science and Engineering – Two Year Duration
Graduates with a Master’s Degree in Paper Science and Engineering often assume senior roles in the industry. This level of education provides students with a very comprehensive understanding of the pulp and paper industry. Coursework spans the industry’s processes, environmental challenges, and sustainability.

Here is a sample of master’s program classes:

  • Paper Process Analysis
  • Paper Technology
  • Pulp technology
  • Stock Preparation
  • Paper Testing
  • Minerals
  • Project Management
  • Board and Paper Technology
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Automation
  • Experiment Design
  • Paper Coating
  • Sustainable Development

In addition to the courses listed above, master’s candidates must research and submit a master’s thesis.

Doctoral Degree in Paper Science and Engineering – Four to Six Year Duration
Doctoral programs in paper science and engineering are targeted at students who wish to teach or conduct advanced research in the field. Therefore, the curriculum at this level is research focused. In preparation of their dissertation, doctoral candidates generally select a field of study from the following:

  • Wood Science and Technology
  • Chemistry of Forest Products
  • Pulp and Paper Technology
  • Forest Biotechnology

Degrees Similar to Paper Science and Engineering

Chemical Engineering
This degree field is focused on how the chemical, biochemical, and physical properties of substances can be changed to turn them into something else. Examples of this work are making plastic from oil, developing synthetic fibers for clothing, identifying ways to mass-produce drugs, and finding ways to solve environmental problems.

Chemistry is the science that deals with identifying the substances that make up matter. Degree programs in chemistry focus on investigating these substances: their properties; how they interact, combine, and change; and how scientists can use chemical processes to form new substances.

Engineering Chemistry
This degree field is closely related to chemical engineering. The engineering chemistry curriculum, however, includes organic chemistry, analytical chemistry, and electrochemistry. This coursework prepares students for careers as engineering chemists, whose work involves developing devices for biomedical and environmental monitoring, forensic analysis, thermodynamics and energy conversion, and pharmaceuticals and polymers.

Materials Engineering
Materials engineering involves creating, testing, and improving all kinds of materials that can be used to make different products. Material engineers work with glass, plastic, ceramics, metal and other materials.

Polymer and Plastics Engineering
This is another type of materials engineering, focused on polymers and plastics. Coursework includes chemistry and applied mathematics.

Textile Engineering
Textile engineering students take courses in math, science, computer science, industrial engineering, and chemical manufacturing. They learn how to apply skills in these areas for analyzing, testing, and developing both natural and synthetic fibers.

Skills You’ll Learn

Paper science and engineering students come away from their studies with a considerable number of transferable skills:

  • Creativity – engineering is about creating new products
  • Critical thinking and problem-solving – engineering is also about finding solutions to problems and challenges
  • Curiosity – curiosity leads to creativity and creativity solves problems
  • Research and Data Analysis
  • Teamwork – scientific discoveries and breakthroughs are often the result of collaboration between different specialists
  • Ethics – students of engineering learn to develop processes that are moral and ethical

What Can You Do with a Paper Science and Engineering Degree?

Paper science and engineering graduates often find employment with:

  • Paper product manufacturers – in sales, marketing, and operations roles
  • Paper chemical producers
  • Suppliers of chemical, material, and equipment to the pulp and paper industry
  • Research and development departments of paper producers
  • Lumber companies
  • Pulp and paper industry regulators
  • Environmental management/consulting firms
  • Colleges and universities – in teaching and pulp and paper science research roles
  • Government departments and agencies


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