What is a Pulp and Paper Engineering Degree?

Pulp and paper engineering programs focus on the application of mathematical and scientific principles to the design, development, and manufacturing of pulp and paper products.

The curriculum, which is founded upon courses in chemistry, advanced math, and physics, draws heavily from chemical engineering. Its objective is to train the next generation of pulp and paper engineers, whose work involves developing more durable paper, papers that take dyes more completely, and sustainable methods of paper manufacture using techniques like renewable sources of fiber and the addition of recycled materials.

Program Options

It is important to choose educational programs accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).

Certificate in Pulp and Paper Engineering – Nine Month to One Year Duration
The certificate in pulp and paper engineering is suitable for people graduating in other branches of engineering or chemistry.

In the pulp and paper engineering certificate program, lectures, laboratories, and field trips address topics like these:

  • Introduction to Pulp and Paper Manufacture – the fundamentals of paper manufacture and equipment; introduction to coating, printing, and other uses of paper; the nature and scope of the paper industry
  • Stock Preparation and Papermaking – the processes involved in the formation, consolidation, and drying of a web of paper; topics covered include refining, fourdrinier (a device for producing paper, paperboard, and other fiberboards), and multi-ply operation, pressing, and drying; internal and surface treatments of paper; the effects of additives and fibre types; analysis using chemical, physical, and engineering principles
  • Coating – the fundamentals of pigmented and functional coating of paper and board; coating chemistry, evaluation of coated paper, and the performance of paper in the graphic arts
  • Paper Physics Fundamentals – overview of wood fibers and their properties; fiber and sheet strength and the effect of papermaking operations; fracture and optical properties of paper; basics of paper testing and reclaimed fibers; fiber identification and a paper machine trial
  • Pulping and Bleaching – the processes involved in the production of papermaking fibers; wood anatomy, structure, and chemistry, wood yard operations, chemical and high-yield pulping, bleaching, alternate fiber sources, and pulping and bleaching chemistry; mass and energy balances, process design and control; wood characterization, pulping, and bleaching
  • Surface and Wet End Science – the concepts of surface science, colloid chemistry, and polymers; applications of these concepts to operations in the paper industry; topics include surface tension, absorption and wetting, colloids, foams and emulsions, and wet end additives such as retention aids, strength resins, defoamers, and drainage aids
  • Work Experience – hands-on experience in a job capacity in a pulp, paper, printing, or related industry

Bachelor’s Degree in Pulp and Paper Engineering – Four Year Duration
The pulp and paper engineering bachelor’s program is a chemical engineering-based curriculum. Coursework spans the basic sciences – chemistry, physics, mathematics, and computer science – as well as engineering topics like mechanics, thermodynamics, electricity, and design.

Programs at this level generally include a capstone design experience in which students work on problems in the design and implementation of new technologies, often with a local paper mill. A summer internship is another common component. Some schools offer an exchange program with a pulp and paper engineering program abroad.

Here is a snapshot of the layout of a typical bachelor’s program in pulp and paper engineering:

  • Calculus for Science and Engineering
  • Multivariable Calculus
  • Differential Equations for Engineers and Scientists
  • Research Writing
  • General Chemistry with Laboratory
  • Organic Chemistry with Laboratory
  • Computing Methods for Engineers and Scientists
  • Professional Engineering Skills
  • General Physics with Laboratory
  • Introduction to Process Engineering
  • Introduction to Papermaking
  • The Art and Early History of Papermaking
  • Pulp and Paper Laboratory Skills
  • Engineering Thermodynamics
  • Principles of Mass and Energy Balance
  • Probability and Statistics for Engineers
  • Unit Operations Laboratory
  • Transport Phenomena
  • Unit Process Operations
  • Information Literacy
  • Professional Writing in Paper and Bioprocess Engineering
  • Introduction to Economics
  • Professional Internship
  • Fiber Processing
  • Fluid Mechanics
  • Papermaking Processes
  • Fiber and Paper Properties
  • Papermaking Wet End Chemistry
  • Process Control
  • Engineering Design Economics
  • Engineering Design

Master’s Degree in Pulp and Paper Engineering – Two Year Duration
At the master’s level, students of pulp and paper engineering select an area of focus. These are some common concentrations:

Colloidal Chemistry and Fiber Flocculation

  • Paper sheet formation mechanisms
  • Wet-end chemistry and physics
  • Effect of additives in fiber networks

Fiber and Paper Physics

  • Fiber orientations and sheet properties
  • Absorption and transport of moisture in paper materials
  • Mechano-sorptive phenomena (the phenomena observed when wood is subjected simultaneously to mechanical loading and sorption resulting from changing hypothermal conditions)

Process and Environmental Systems Engineering

  • Energy from biomass and other renewable sources
  • Bioseparations of lignocellulosic materials into useful components
  • Bioprocessing of renewable materials
  • Creation of new bioproducts using ecologically sustainable processes

Pulp and Paper Technology

  • Pulping conditions and fiber properties
  • Fungal and enzymatic treatments
  • Chemicals and energy as by-products
  • Statistical analysis of paper structure
  • Recycling of papermaking fibers

Pulping and Bleaching Processes

  • Reaction mechanisms and kinetics
  • Applications of biotechnology
  • Lignin and carbohydrate chemistry
  • Chemicals from wood and pulping residues
  • Energy from wood and pulping residues
  • Chemical modification in mechanical pulping
  • Catalytic and activation effects

Degrees Similar to Pulp and Paper Engineering

Biochemical Engineering
Biochemical engineers combine engineering principles with knowledge of mathematics, chemistry, the biological sciences, and physics to convert raw materials into products that benefit society. They develop new ways to use cells, enzymes, antibodies, and other biochemical agents in medicine, environmental services, and industry. Students of biochemical engineering study the chemical reactions and physicochemical transformations that are the foundations of the field. As graduates, their objective is to address the world’s complex needs while preserving resources and opportunities for future generations.

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 Technology
Engineering technology programs teach the engineering skills required to assist engineers in their work. Common classes are computers for engineering technology, construction methodologies, structural systems, strength of materials, and technical drawing. Some of the subfields of engineering technology are civil engineering technology, construction engineering technology, aerospace engineering technology, and automotive engineering technology.

Forestry degree programs teach students how to conserve and manage forests through sustainable practices. This means the curriculum covers both preserving biodiversity, as well as producing wood products in ecologically responsible ways. Classes also address contemporary issues like climate change, carbon management, and how to plan and manage urban forests or green spaces in metropolitan areas.

Materials Science
Materials scientists apply principles of engineering, physics, and chemistry to study existing materials and invent and manufacture new materials. Their work has broad applications to solving real-world problems. It is essential to our everyday lives. Degree programs in materials science cover the structure and composition of materials, how they behave under various conditions, and how they can be manipulated and combined for specific uses in specific industries – from health and engineering to electronics, construction, and manufacturing.

Nuclear Engineering
Students of nuclear engineering learn how energy released from nuclear reactions can be used in power plants, medical diagnostic equipment, and other industries. Nuclear engineering courses cover nuclear reactor theory, design, safety, and risks.

Skills You’ll Learn

Individuals who study and work in the field of pulp and paper engineering develop a set of skills that are transferable to a variety of careers. Among these skills are:

  • Ability to formulate and test hypotheses and ideas
  • Computer-aided design (CAD) software
  • Creativity, ingenuity, and inquisitiveness
  • Critical thinking and problem solving
  • Data collection, analysis, and information processing
  • Detail orientation
  • Developing processes
  • Documentation and reporting
  • Maintaining and updating knowledge
  • Managing and leading cross-functional teams
  • Mathematics
  • Persistence
  • Training and teaching
  • Troubleshooting

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

Pulp and paper engineering graduates are employed in manufacturing, process and design engineering, research and product development, technical sales and marketing, and administration. Here is how they apply their knowledge and skills in each of these sectors:


  • Production Planning
  • Process Control
  • Quality Control
  • Plant Engineering
  • Production Supervision
  • Technical Production Support
  • Environmental Management

Process and Design Engineering

  • Equipment Design
  • Plant Design
  • Energy Management

Research and Product Development

  • Product Development
  • Process Development
  • Operations Research
  • Environmental Protection
  • Forestry Research

Technical Sales and Marketing

  • Direct Selling
  • Market Research
  • Market Development
  • Customer Technical Service


  • Purchasing
  • Planning
  • Corporate Administration

Job titles held by professionals in the field include:

  • Applications Engineer – Paper
  • Engineer
  • Mill Superintendent
  • Paper Applications Specialist
  • Paper Engineer
  • Paper Mill Supervisor
  • Plant Engineering Team Leader
  • Process Engineer
  • Project Director
  • Researcher
  • Technical Sales Representative


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