Even in a digital world, the paper industry is thriving because paper products continue to be an essential part of our daily lives. As a result, career options are booming for paper science engineers.
With Domtar’s paper mills achieving record performance and an industry-wide trend of baby boomers retiring over the next several years, paper science engineers are in high demand. If you’re a college student or know someone who is, there’s never been a better time to pursue a career in the pulp and paper industry.
“We always have high demand for paper science engineers,” says Melanie Jenkins, Domtar talent acquisition specialist. “It’s one of our most highly recruited positions and one of the best for offering early-career professionals an incredible opportunity to build a long and successful career.”
To meet demand, Domtar maintains active recruiting relationships with five universities in the United States that offer paper science programs, along with numerous smaller schools located near our pulp and paper mills. Our university partners include:
- North Carolina State University
- North Carolina A&T State University
- Western Michigan University
- Miami University of Ohio
- University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point
So what makes a paper science engineer so desirable to employers?
“The conversion of biomass into paper and board is a unique, specialized and complicated process that’s not taught in chemical or mechanical engineering programs,” says Dr. Med Byrd, director of undergraduate programs for North Carolina State University’s paper science and engineering program.
He says paper science program graduates have the fundamental and applied experience needed to contribute immediately at a paper mill, while others would face a much steeper learning curve. Pulp and paper employers find that ability extremely desirable, and the competition for top talent is fierce.
Because of the number of baby boomers soon to retire, Byrd says, “most people don’t understand the extent of talent needed in the next five years. It’s fueling a frenzied demand for students.”
Byrd estimates that, in total, the paper science and engineering programs in the United States produce about 150 graduates each year. They’re recruited immediately after graduation. Most receive multiple job offers, and nearly all are hired within six months, with a starting annual salary in the low-to-mid $US70,000 range — more than most entry-level engineers receive in different disciplines. What’s more, Byrd says the starting salary grows each year due to low supply and high demand across the pulp and paper industry.
Paper Science Engineers Turn Internships Into Jobs
In 2018, Domtar hired 29 paper science engineer interns and 22 co-op students. In addition, Domtar hired seven former interns and co-op students as full-time entry-level paper science engineers at our Nekoosa, Plymouth, Port Huron and Kingsport mills.
Dylan Tripp is one such engineer. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in paper science and engineering at North Carolina State University in December 2018. After interning at our Plymouth Mill for two summers, he joined the staff as an entry-level engineer in January 2019.
Tripp was undecided on which engineering program to pursue when his friend John Edwards — then a North Carolina State University upperclassman and now Plymouth Mill machine superintendent — encouraged him to consider paper science engineering thanks to its family-like atmosphere and competitive job opportunities at graduation.
“I took the first class and enjoyed it. I’m glad I stuck with it,” says Tripp. He encourages others to pursue paper science programs because of the opportunities his degree has already afforded him as a young engineer, like participating in important continuous improvement projects at the Plymouth Mill.
Bill Edwards, Domtar’s vice president, Communication Paper Manufacturing, agrees: “I’ve been very impressed with the way our interns, co-op students and new engineers are able to add value to our operations right out of school. It’s a testament to the quality of the programs our college and university partners offer. We’re very proud to support them.”