Plastic Extrusion Engineer: Education and Career Information
Plastic extrusion engineers are materials engineers who work with melting process, molds, and the design or creation of plastic products. A bachelor's degree is necessary for entry level engineering positions; related majors for this field include plastics engineering, materials engineering, or plastics extrusion. These engineers may work to design molds, materials or ingredients, or create plastic objects from melted materials.
Plastic extrusion engineers melt raw materials into plastic dough and then push that dough into a mold to form other products. Some engineers design devices to enhance the melting and molding process and others experiment with blends of raw materials to make plastic products more flexible or safer for the environment. Plastic extrusion engineers, like materials engineers, require a bachelor's degree. Those hoping to pursue this career should demonstrate an interest in math and science as well as an affinity for working with tools.
Education Information for Plastic Extrusion Engineers
As of 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) noted that many entry-level engineering positions required a bachelor's degree. Individuals interested in this field should choose a related major, such as plastics engineering, materials engineering or, specifically, plastic extrusion. Coursework in these majors usually includes multiple classes in math, physics and chemistry. Other courses might cover the fundamentals of plastics, the extrusion process and computer-assisted design (CAD).
While most positions only require a bachelor's degree, some engineers earn a graduate degree to work in high-end facilities or government-based research labs. Possible master's or Ph.D. programs include plastics engineering, polymeric sciences or materials engineering. Many master's degree programs aim toward business pursuits with courses covering laboratory management and current issues in the industry. Ph.D. programs focus on advanced research topics, such as chemistry, physics and the molecular behavior of plastic materials.
Career Information for Plastic Extrusion Engineers
Most university engineering departments describe the plastic extrusion process as one of many ways plastic materials are melted down and shaped into everyday items. Engineers in this field operate and design different extrusion machines that move the raw materials into a melting chamber to create flexible plastic dough. They then use machines to push the dough out into sheets of plastic, called film, or shape the plastic into objects using molds.
Many plastic extrusion engineers also work on creating plastic ingredient formulas to produce a desired effect. For example, melting several raw chemical additives might make the plastic more or less flexible. The thickness and flexibility of the plastic determines what it can be made into. Engineers develop multiple formulas to make different products for each industry, such as medical equipment for the healthcare industry.
The BLS reported that most engineers don't need a license unless they act as a public consultant. Many states require at least four years work experience as well as a minimum level of education before engineers are eligible to take a licensing exam. Plastic extrusion engineers are not required to obtain additional certification, although some employers might prefer credentialed workers.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
While the BLS doesn't have data specifically for plastics extrusion engineers, it did indicate that the related field of materials engineers was expected to see a 1% growth in available jobs between 2014 and 2024. Materials engineers had a mean annual income of $94,690 as of May 2015, the BLS noted.
Plastic extrusion engineers are responsible for working within the process of developing raw material or ingredient mixtures for melting and forming into plastic, working with melted materials to create plastic objects, designing molds, or a combination of these processes. These professionals are a type of materials engineer and must have a bachelor's degree to gain an entry level position.