What does a Packaging Engineer do?

D. Jeffress

A packaging engineer designs and constructs boxes, cartons, bottles, plastic wraps, and other containers used to protect consumer goods. Professionals research different types of materials and improve the industrial techniques used to package products. They utilize expert knowledge of physics, chemistry, mechanical engineering, and marketing to determine what materials to use to protect specific goods. Packaging engineers work in many different settings, including research and development companies, manufacturing plants, and private consulting firms.

A food storage container designed by a packaging engineer.
A food storage container designed by a packaging engineer.

A research and development packaging engineer usually works in a specialized laboratory setting to conduct experiments on different types of materials. For example, a professional might want to create a new type of plastic food container that is durable, recyclable, and capable of withstanding microwave heat. He or she researches the qualities of different plastic polymers to determine which ones most closely match the desired traits. The packaging engineer then works with a team of other scientists to develop prototypes and put them through a series of tests to determine their efficacy.

Cardboard packages.
Cardboard packages.

Many packaging engineers are concerned with the design of attractive, effective containers and efficient production techniques. They first determine which materials to use to package a given product, such as cardboard, glass, plastic, or wood. Engineers often try to minimize waste by using the least amount of packaging material possible. They employ mathematical models and computer-aided drafting software to help them create the most efficient designs. Professionals also help design and construct industrial equipment used to produce and package consumer goods.

A packaging engineer needs to be concerned with the efficient use of space.
A packaging engineer needs to be concerned with the efficient use of space.

The educational requirements to become a packaging engineer vary by country and setting. Most professionals who work in manufacturing plants and consulting firms hold master's degrees in packaging science, materials science, or mechanical engineering. Those who engage in research and development of new materials, methods, and processing equipment typically hold doctoral degrees in their specialties. Some countries require packaging engineers to pass licensing exams to test their understanding of the fundamentals of the job and legal matters related to patents and consumer safety.

New packaging engineers typically work as assistants to established professionals for many months before working independently on projects. Assistants are often responsible for writing grant proposals, contacting clients, and conducting research under the supervision of senior engineers. With time and experience, an individual can earn additional responsibilities and have the opportunity to advance within his or her company. Many skilled packaging engineers become involved in marketing their designs after gaining several years of experience in the field.

Package engineers may try to come up with ways to efficiently package items without the use of tape.
Package engineers may try to come up with ways to efficiently package items without the use of tape.

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Discussion Comments


I have a friend who studies materials science which is related to package engineering. He is a big bike rider and his dream is to invent a metal or plastic that can be used to build incredibly light weight but also incredibly strong bicycles.

Its a great idea and the eureka moment is out there somewhere, although probably a long ways away. If anybody can figure it out though it is my friend Neil. He is a complete science wiz.


Its amazing to me how broad and varied the field of engineering is. I feel like at least once a week I hear about a kind of engineer that I had never come across before. A packaging engineer, who would have ever thought.

I guess it makes sense though. We tend to take for granted that almost everything we see, touch and use has been planned, designed, engineered, mass produced and branded. Engineering is right at the center of that process, right at the center of everything. These guys and girls make the world that we know.


I think it would be so cool to design packages for things. I'm not talking about boring white boxes, but packages that have style and flair. There are so many cool looking bottles, boxes, folders, containers etc. It is an art form in the hands of the right person.


Packaging seems like a pretty dry and boring subject, but it has interesting and unexpected consequences.

A few months ago I heard about how Wal-Mart was urging their suppliers to re engineer packages to be smaller and more compact. Wal-Mart said that this was an initiative to be more green. Of course it also benefits Wal-Mart by cutting down on their shipping costs. Either way, it is probably a good idea and a herculean task when you think about it. All those shelves of boxes going on and on endlessly.

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