RIT Logo with Text

Packaging science goes far beyond mere protection and containment.

It's a bridge between products and consumers, serving as a powerful tool for marketing, sustainability, and innovation. This is where the field of packaging science comes into play. If you're considering a packaging degree, you're stepping into a dynamic world with a multitude of career opportunities.

What is Packaging Science?

Packaging science is a multidisciplinary field that focuses on the design, development, and production of packaging materials and systems. It combines elements of engineering, design, materials science, marketing, and sustainability to create packaging solutions that meet a range of functional, aesthetic, and environmental criteria.

Packaging Industry

Graduates with a packaging degree can find rewarding careers in various industries. Here are some of the most popular areas within this dynamic industry:

  • Food and Beverage Industry: Every time you shop in a grocery store, you handle food packaging. Egg cartons, juice containers, and cereal boxes are more than just vessels to contain food products. Packaging keeps food and beverages fresh, reduces breakage in fragile products, serves as marketing to promote and sell a product, and so much more. Packaging plays a crucial role in food preservation, safety, and consumer appeal. Packaging scientists and packaging engineers work to develop packaging solutions that maintain product freshness and quality.
  • Pharmaceuticals and Healthcare: If you have ever had to take medication prescribed by a doctor, picked up over the counter medicine from the store, or used medical devices like hearing aids or oxygen masks, you were interacting with healthcare and pharmaceutical packaging. Packaging science plays a critical role in ensuring the safety and integrity of medical products. A collaborative team of packaging professionals creates packaging that meets regulatory requirements and maintains product quality.
  • E-commerce and Logistics: We all love it when a package arrives at our door. It’s like the holidays all year round. You experience e-commerce and logistics packaging every time you receive a package on your doorstep. Packaging science is responsible for safeguarding the products inside during transit. When you open a well-packaged box, you can trust that your ordered items are undamaged and ready for use. With the rise of online shopping, there is a growing need for packaging professionals to design packaging solutions that protect products during transit and provide a positive unboxing experience for customers.
  • Sustainable Packaging: Sustainability is increasingly important to the world around us. You actively engage with sustainable packaging when you choose products with eco-friendly packaging materials or participate in recycling programs. Sustainable packaging not only reduces environmental impact, but also aligns with the values as environmentally conscious consumers. This focus on sustainability has given rise to a specialized role - the Sustainable Packaging Manager. These professionals work to reduce environmental impact by developing eco-friendly packaging solutions.
  • Technology and Electronics: In the realm of technology and electronics, packaging science serves as the first introduction to a new device. Have you ever eagerly unboxed a smartphone, laptop, or other gadgets, expecting not only a flawless product but also an aesthetically pleasing and protective package? Packaging science ensures that these devices arrive in perfect condition, enhancing the initial user experience.

RIT’s packaging science majors are dynamic and integrate engineering, creative design, and business to develop and design product packaging for a range of consumer goods. Learn more about RIT’s packaging Science BS and packaging science MS.

Student working in a lab

Packaging Careers

These careers expand across all industries and a packaging degree has the flexibility to begin your career working with any product of your interest.

Packaging Engineer

What is a Packaging Engineer?
Packaging engineers are the problem-solvers of the packaging world. Packaging engineering designs and creates packaging systems that ensure products reach consumers intact. This includes selecting appropriate materials, designing packaging structures, and considering factors like transportation and storage.

Imagine you're a packaging engineer working for a beverage company. Your task is to design packaging for a new glass bottle. You need to select a glass thickness that provides sufficient protection without adding unnecessary weight. You also design a label that not only looks appealing but provides information about the product. Finally, you ensure that the bottles can be efficiently packed into crates for transportation without breakage.

Packaging Designer

What is a Packaging Designer?
Packaging design creates visually appealing and functional packaging that attracts consumers and communicates brand identity. They consider aesthetics, usability, and marketing strategies to design sustainable packaging that stands out on the shelves.

Suppose you're a packaging designer working for a luxury chocolate brand. Your task is to create packaging for a new line of chocolates. You carefully choose colors, textures, and shapes that convey a sense of luxury and indulgence. You also ensure that the packaging is easy to open and reseal to maintain freshness. Your design not only protects the product but enhances the overall consumer experience.

Packaging Developer

What is a Packaging Developer?
Packaging developers work on both improving existing packaging solutions and packaging innovation. They work with suppliers and research institutions to identify and test new materials that enhance product protection and sustainability. They collaborate with engineers, designers, and materials scientists to create cutting-edge packaging.

Imagine you're a packaging developer at a tech company. Your goal is to design packaging for a new smartphone. You explore innovative materials that are both protective and sustainable. You also work on a unique opening mechanism that provides an enjoyable unboxing experience. Your work results in a packaging solution that sets the product apart in the market.

Sustainable Packaging Manager

What is a Sustainable Packaging Manager?
Sustainable packaging focuses on reducing the environmental footprint of packaging by implementing eco-friendly materials and practices. They ensure compliance with sustainability goals and regulations while maintaining product quality and marketability.

Your role in sustainable packaging for a global retailer would lead a team that transitions from single-use plastic bags to reusable and recyclable alternatives. You monitor the reduction in plastic waste and collaborate with suppliers to source sustainable packaging materials.

Product Engineer

What is a Product Engineer?
Product engineers collaborate with packaging engineers and designers to ensure that products are designed with packaging in mind. They work on the product's structural design and functionality to optimize packaging solutions.

As a product engineer for a toy manufacturing company, you work closely with packaging designers to create toys that can be packaged efficiently. You design toys with detachable parts that can fit into compact boxes, reducing shipping costs and environmental impact.

Packaging Scientist

What is a Packaging Scientist?
Packaging scientists study the properties of materials used in packaging, as well as the interactions between packaging and products. They conduct research to improve packaging performance, safety, and sustainability.

Suppose you're a packaging scientist at a food company. Your research focuses on developing packaging materials that extend the shelf life of fresh produce. You conduct experiments to understand how different packaging materials affect the product's freshness, and you use your findings to create packaging that reduces food waste.

How To Choose a Packaging Career 

Choosing a packaging career in the field of packaging science can be an exciting journey, but it can also be a bit overwhelming due to the diverse range of opportunities within the field. While deciding, consider a university that provides an opportunity for exploration.

Programs like cooperative education, or co-op, are an excellent way to gain practical experience while pursuing your degree. Universities like the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) integrate cooperative education into their packaging degrees. This is immensely valuable because it allows you to work in real-world settings, applying what you learn in the classroom to actual industry projects.

Benefits of Co-op Education for Packaging Science

With cooperative education (co-op) you’ll earn more than a degree. You’ll gain real-world career experience that sets you apart. It’s exposure–early and often–to a variety of professional work environments, career paths, and industries. Co-op takes your knowledge and turns it into know-how, providing you with hands-on experience that enables you to apply your packaging science knowledge in professional settings while you make valuable connections between classwork and real-world applications.

  • Hands-on Experience: Co-op experiences give you firsthand exposure to different career paths within packaging science. You can work as a packaging engineer, designer, or developer in various industries, helping you understand which role resonates with you the most.
  • Networking Opportunities: Co-op programs enable you to build a professional network within the packaging industry. You can connect with industry professionals, potential mentors, and future employers.
  • Resume Building: Co-op experiences are a valuable addition to your resume. They demonstrate practical skills and a strong work ethic, making you more competitive in the job market.

Career Clarity: Co-op experiences help students clarify their career goals and interests within the packaging industry, ensuring they choose a path that aligns with their passions.

Packaging diagram

Your Future Career in Packaging Awaits 

A packaging degree can open doors to a wide range of exciting and impactful careers. Whether you're passionate about design, engineering, sustainability, or scientific research, the field of packaging science offers diverse opportunities to make a tangible difference in various industries. While the range of opportunities within the field can make it hard to choose a career focus, programs like co-op, can give you the hands-on experience and career clarity you need for a fulfilling and successful career in packaging science.