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Wood Science and Paper Technology - Overview


Programs in wood science and paper technology prepare people to make paper and other products from wood. Students learn the properties of wood. They study processing methods in making paper from wood fiber.

Think of a tree, and then think of a piece of paper. What a long road from one to the other - and yet, we know paper comes from trees. But how does that process evolve? Paper-making includes complex processes such as refining, sizing, coating, and drying. And before any of that happens, trees must be grown, harvested, and transferred into pulp. Pulp is then usually bleached. Who knew it was so complicated?

In wood science and paper technology programs, much of your course work is scientific in nature. You study the chemical and physical properties of different types and species of wood. You also learn about growing trees and managing forests to supply raw materials for paper, as well as how to keep those raw materials a renewable resource. Often, you learn these things through taking math, physics, engineering, and chemistry courses. Many programs also offer marketing and business courses. This is for students who want to work in forest products marketing and sales.

In addition, some programs require you to focus on wood science or paper technology, but not both. A specialization in paper technology usually means that you study wood pulping processes, pulp bleaching, and all aspects of paper-making.

Every state has a land grant college that offers agricultural science programs. In addition, about 30 colleges and universities also offer degrees specifically in wood science or technology. In some cases, these programs are part of natural resources departments. When two-year colleges offer certificate and associate's degree programs, students can often transfer the credits to a four-year school. They may also enter the workforce with one or two years of study.

A graduate degree in this field is possible, although only a handful of schools offer programs. In most cases, your master's degree will be in paper and pulp engineering. In general, a master's degree takes two years to complete.

Most people with degrees in wood science and paper technology work as technicians and engineers in the paper-making industry. Some people manage forests or work in conservation.

Source: Illinois Career Information System (CIS) brought to you by Illinois Department of Employment Security.
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