Students receiving a degree in Paper Science & Engineering gain access to variety of engineering and related jobs, primarily in the paper industry but also in other chemical process industries. Students receiving dual degrees in Paper Science & Engineering and Chemical Engineering will find themselves pursued by both companies in the paper industry and other companies that value the combination of a very theoretical degree and a very applied degree.
What Would I Do?
Manufacturing – most graduates with PSE or PSE/CHE degrees will get jobs in the manufacturing sector, working at a particular company site that makes a certain product. Students with an engineering orientation tend to find this type of work to be satisfying and stimulating, because of its hands-on nature and the ability to quickly see the results of a contribution. Process Engineers focus on improving the productivity and reliability of the process, while reducing costs and improving quality. They work daily with the process, in a very hands-on way. Project Engineers help to design new processes and equipment that can make a step change in the operation. They work with equipment and technology vendors, come up with proposed designs, calculate total costs, and submit project packages to management for approval.
Management – some graduates will be attracted to the management side of manufacturing. They usually start out as process or project engineers, but then they are promoted to supervisor, coordinator, or area management roles. Students on management track can end up in high-level, highly-paid positions such as mill manager, division manager, vice-president, president, or CEO. Many alumni of the PSE program have ended up in these types of positions.
Technical Support – graduates who go into these types of jobs are a bit less involved in day-to-day manufacturing operations. Instead, they are responsible for providing technical assistance to one or more sites and supplying sampling, testing, analysis, and strategies for improvement. Sometimes, these jobs are located at central corporate sites. Such jobs are attractive to students who do not like to be limited to one location and to students who like the more technical aspects of pulp and paper manufacture.
Suppliers – each year, a good number of PSE graduates go to work for companies that supply chemicals, equipment, and technology to the paper industry. In the “old days,” these employees were actively involved in the sales of these items. With the advent of corporate-level contracts, however, supplier representatives are more focused on trials of new products and ensuring that the implementation of the products is being done in an optimal fashion. Some students who get these types of jobs live in a central location (usually a more metropolitan area) and travel to support a number of sites. Others, however, actually work at a single manufacturing site, serving as the “live-in” support person for the company’s products. These types of jobs appeal to students who like travel and the thought of working in multiple locations.
Consulting – some students will go to work for companies that supply engineering, design, financial, or other consulting services to the paper industry. Examples of such companies are Jacobs Engineering, BE&K Engineering, and Accenture. Advantages of these types of jobs are the opportunity to work with multiple paper companies and the ability to live in a more metropolitan area.
Research and Development – although similar in nature to Technical Support (above), graduates who go into R&D are more focused on longer-term issues, such as new products and better processes to produce existing products. Often (but not always), a higher-level degree is required to be in these types of jobs. The jobs usually involve work in a laboratory or pilot plant, but they can also involve trials at the manufacturing sites.
Where Would I Work?
It is often assumed that a degree in Paper Science & Engineering limits graduates to jobs in rural or remote locations. It is true that many attractive jobs in manufacturing, management, and technical support are found at major pulp and paper manufacturing facilities, and these facilities are usually often located in rural areas by necessity. The advantages of such rural locations include low cost of living and access to water and hunting sports. However, a surprising number of these facilities are within easy commuting distance of towns or cities of considerable size — examples include Lynchburg, Augusta, Wilmington, Richmond, Charlotte, Atlanta, Asheville, and Tulsa.
Graduates who need a more metropolitan location can pursue opportunities with suppliers, or they can go into consulting or research and development roles. PSE graduates currently work in such cities as Charlotte, Atlanta, Richmond, Jacksonville, Memphis, Tulsa, and Houston.
Are There Jobs?
The outstanding reputation of persons with a PSE degree from NC State has led to very high placement rates for graduates. Traditionally, 80-100 % of all graduates will have at least one job offer at the time of graduation, and 100 % are placed within one year of graduation. This high placement rate has been independent of the state of the US economy or the paper industry. More often than not, graduates with a combination of a good GPA and good job experience (summer internships and co-ops) will receive several offers from a variety of companies.
Students who receive the dual major in PSE and CHE will find that their job options are even more prevalent and varied. This combination of a very theoretical and a very applied degree is highly attractive to employers – not only those in the paper and related industries, but also to petrochemical, pharmaceutical, and other chemical process industries. It is our experience that students with the dual degree will receive more (and more attractive) offers with non-paper companies than they would have with only a single CHE degree.
Students considering the PSE program at NC State should think about this – because of extensive “baby boomer” retirements, there is a nationwide and worldwide shortage of entry-level engineers. The shortage is quite acute in the paper industry, and recent job offerings have been unprecedented – both in number, variety, location, and starting salary level. This is a great time to go into PSE!
What Would I Earn?
Starting salaries for graduates with a PSE degree are among the highest for any NC State graduate. The recent average offer was $73,000/year, with a range of $68,000 to $75,000. Students receiving the dual degree with CHE have access to even higher salary ranges.