Plastics engineers research and develop new plastics that can be used in any number of industries. Experts create lightweight airplane parts, sturdy computers, and safe food containers, among hundreds of other plastic items. A person who wants to become a plastics engineer usually needs to obtain a bachelor's degree in an engineering specialty, gain supervised experience in the field, and pass a series of licensing examinations. With the appropriate credentials, a professional can become a plastics engineer at a manufacturing plant or private research and development firm.
A high school student interested in plastics engineering can prepare for a career by taking advanced courses in physics, chemistry, biology, and math. Such classes are important to provide a fundamental understanding of scientific principles and research methods. Language and computer science courses are also important to help an individual develop the communication skills he or she will need in an engineering position. A student can begin applying to accredited four-year universities and colleges with strong engineering programs in the final year of high school.
An individual who wants to become a plastics engineer can major in any science or engineering specialty, though employers often prefer to hire mechanical and chemical engineering degree-holders. As an engineering undergraduate, a student often has the chance to work firsthand with the materials and machines commonly used in the industry. In addition, he or she receives detailed instruction in math, physics, organic chemistry, and computer-aided design. Some schools offer internship opportunities to provide students with practical experience in the field.
After earning a degree, an individual can take the first of two national licensing tests and begin looking for entry-level openings. Online job search sites can be very helpful in identifying potential leads. A person given the chance to become a plastics engineer typically starts as an assistant. He or she gains formal, on-the-job training from experienced workers to learn about specific policies and techniques. In time, a new worker can become a junior engineer and take on more responsibilities.
In most countries, a professional needs to gain about four years of experience before he or she can take the second licensing exam to become a plastics engineer. Licensure is necessary to make sure a worker understands the importance of following national safety regulations and meeting industry quality standards. A newly licensed plastics engineer can begin conducting independent research and leading teams of junior workers on important projects.