Early in the 20th century, as the paper industry was growing in size and influence in the United States, it began to hire large numbers of chemical engineers. However, most of them were trained primarily in the theory associated with petrochemical operations. It often took these engineers a few years after being hired to learn the unusual science, terminology, technology and engineering principles associated with paper production. In order to better prepare its new hires, the industry began to establish regional pulp and paper technology programs in different areas of the U.S. The goal of these programs was simple: take young engineers interested in chemical and process engineering and provide them with more specific training in pulp and paper production. Eight such schools were established in the U.S.
The paper industry established a pulp and paper program at N.C. State in 1954, in part to help support a pulp and paper industry boom in the southern U.S. Students in this program were able to receive a B.S. degree in Pulp & Paper Technology (PPT). But the students could also stay for one additional semester and receive a second B.S. in Chemical Engineering, a program feature then not available at any of the other schools offering paper science degrees. With strong regional support, an outstanding scholarship endowment, and this unique dual degree program, the NC State program began to establish itself as a dominant program in the U.S. In 2004, this program became jointly administered by the College of Natural Resources and the College of Engineering, and its name was changed to Paper Science & Engineering. In 2005, the program became ABET accredited.
With over 50 years of history and over 1,900 alumni, the Paper Science & Engineering program continues to enjoy strong enrollment and its graduates continue to enjoy outstanding success in their careers.