How to Become a Plastics Engineer

How to Become a Plastics Engineer: Step-By-Step Guide

Although there are many possible paths for getting into this profession, here is a basic outline for what it takes to become a plastics engineer:


1. Take advanced-level coursework in Math, Physics and Chemistry in High School

2. Make sure you have the right personal traits for this work

3. Pursue a Plastics, Materials, Mechanical or Chemical Engineering degree

4. As a student, get work experience via internship and summer employment

5. Get an ‘engineer-in-training’ job after graduation

6. Earn the Professional Engineering designation

7. Advance into roles of greater responsibility and pay as you gain experience and complete your education


Below, we expand on these points to give you a good idea of what you'll need to begin a career as a plastics engineer in the United States or Canada. We've also included helpful information for this field, such as what you’ll be doing, what you could earn, and actual “Plastics Engineer” job postings.



What Education Will I Need?

Employers typically prefer to hire candidates for plastics engineering jobs that have a degree in a relevant field, such as Plastics, Chemical, Mechanical or Materials Engineering, or another similar field. Some employers may require a master’s degree, particularly for specialized roles, or teaching positions.




What Is a Plastics Engineer?

Plastics engineers are responsible for handling the design and development of all materials, molds, and all other goods made with plastic.They work to improve product design and development, as well as the manufacturing processes involved in creating the product itself. They typically have autonomy in their work, but operate within a larger team to accomplish their goals.



What Does a Plastics Engineer Do? What Are Their Duties?

Although the specific duties they perform can vary from job to job, plastics engineers are generally responsible for the following:


• Working closely with internal design teams, Purchasing and Quality organizations.

• Creating specifications or receiving them from an internal team

• Ensuring that necessary information pertaining to the design of pieces and parts is obtained

• Establishing parameters for an optimal molding environment

• Establishing manufacturing control plans by reviewing the specifications, the verification and the validation reports

• Creating new validation reports based on findings

• Handling design for necessary product components

• Ensuring the environment for the materials of the components is suitable

• Assisting with internal audits and inspections

• Conferring with the quality control, product development and manufacturing departments

• Keeping abreast of developments in the field of plastics engineering



Will I Need Work Experience to Become a Plastics Engineer?

Most entry-level plastics engineering jobs (also known as “engineer-in-training” roles) don’t require any work experience above what you gain as part of an internship while completing your engineering degree. Mid and senior-level roles often require 3-5 years of experience working in lower level roles, with progressive amounts of responsibility in those roles, as well as Professional Engineer certification. 


Success Tip: Working in plastics engineering (at any capacity, even in the marketing department) during your summers is a great way to gain even more experience above an internship/co-op work opportunity. 



What Licensure/Certification Will I Need?

You will need to be licensed as a Professional Engineer (“PE” - United States; “P.Eng.” - Canada) in order to exercise direct control of a public project and to supervise other engineers and engineering technicians. You will also need to have the PE/P.Eng. designation in order to sell your own engineering services publicly. You won't need to have the Professional Engineer designation to be hired on as an engineer-in-training.



How Do I Become Licensed?

Licensing requirements typically involve completion of an accredited engineering degree, completion of a set number of supervised working hours, and passing an exam, or series of exams. However, these requirements can vary by region, so please contact your provincial/territorial/state engineering association for full details on becoming licensed.



How Can I Prepare in High School?

If you hope to become a plastics engineer, you will need a comprehensive understanding of both math and science. Excelling in these areas while you’re a high school student is a great way to build this foundation at an early age, and will help you qualify for engineering degree programs.


Success Tip: Take up advanced science and math coursework in areas such as physics, chemistry, trigonometry and calculus.



Should I Become a Plastics Engineer? 

If you have the following personal traits you'll be well-suited for becoming a plastics engineer:


• You have a keen interest in plastics and materials science

• You have a natural aptitude, and keen interest in math, physics and engineering

• You enjoy performing work that require precision and attention to detail

• You have initiative, and are proactive about identifying problems and potential solutions

• You enjoy having clear methods and guidelines for your work

• You’re interested in how the total costs to produce products affects company decisions

• You’re willing to learn to live by your employers’ values and codes of conduct

• You’re willing to stay ahead of the curve and seek out new assignments and opportunities to learn new technologies



What is the Salary of a Plastics Engineer?

Salary in the United States: Plastics Engineers are part of the occupational group “Materials Engineers”. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers in this field earn a median salary of $91,310 per year. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $53,120, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $144,720.


Salary in Alberta: The closest available occupational groups with reliable wage and salary statistics in Alberta is “Chemical Engineers”. According to the 2015 wage and salary survey (Government of Alberta), Albertans working as part of this occupational group earn an average annual salary of $119,947.


Please Note: The salary level you could earn as a plastics engineer varies depending on the following factors:


• Your level of education, experience and certification

• The level of responsibility involved in your job

• The size and type of your employer

• The region in which you work

• The industry in which you work

• Many other factors



What Kind of Organizations Employ Plastics Engineers?

Plastics engineers can actually be employed by many different types of organizations, including:


• Companies involved in researching new primary materials

• Materials testing laboratories

• Engineering consulting firms

• Colleges and universities (as researchers and/or lecturers)

• Manufacturing companies (virtually any sector of industry - automotive/aerospace, food processing/packaging, electronic component manufacturing, household goods, etc.)



Plastics Engineer Jobs

Our job board below has "Plastics Engineer" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. 



What is the Work Environment of a Plastics Engineer?

Plastics engineers typically work in offices where they have access to computers and design equipment; on the production floor of factories where they can observe production methods; in research and development laboratories, where they conduct tests. Oftentimes, they work in a combination of these settings. Senior-level engineers however, may spend more time in an office environment performing managerial functions.



What are Careers Similar to “Plastics Engineer”?

Listed below are careers that may be in the same field, or they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and/or responsibilities as “Plastics Engineer”:


• Chemical Engineer

• Food Packaging Specialist

• Industrial Engineer

• Manufacturing Executive

• Materials Engineer

• Materials Scientist

• Mechanical Engineer 

• Packaging Engineer



What Scholarships Are There for Aspiring Plastics Engineers? 

The “Majors in Our Database Relevant for this Career” section below lists fields of study that are relevant to becoming a Plastics Engineer. You can search for relevant scholarships by finding those majors on our "Any Field of Study Scholarships” page.


Success Tip: Apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!




Please consult the following resources to learn more about what it takes to become a plastics engineer:


• Occupational Profile: “Materials Engineer.” (n.d.). Alberta Government - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved March 8, 2017.

• Occupational Outlook Handbook: “Materials Engineers.” (n.d.). United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved March 8, 2017.

• Information About Plastics Engineering: “How to Become a Plastics Engineer.” (March 7, 2012). Plastics Engineering. Retrieved March 8, 2017.


Please Note: Some of the information used for this career guide was obtained from actual job postings, which due to their brief online presence are not listed here as references. 



Majors in Our Database Relevant for this Career

We have career guides for over 60 university majors in our database. Below we've outlined those that are most relevant to becoming a plastics engineer. Click on the links to see what else you can do with these majors!


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