Packaging Technologist

The Job and What's Involved

Packaging technologists design, develop and select the appropriate packaging materials for a wide range of products. They need to develop packaging that contains, protects and preserves products, as well as ensuring their safe transport through the supply chain.

The type of packaging used depends on the product. It may be made out of paper, cardboard, plastic, glass or metal. The packaging technologist has to take into account a number of issues when designing the right package, for example:

  • Medicine bottles must be clearly labelled and may need child resistant closures to prevent children from opening them.
  • Fast-food packaging should be light, convenient and suitable for the food.
  • Packaging for clothing needs to be attractive and display the contents.
  • Confectionery packaging is often brightly printed to encourage people to buy it.

The job of a packaging technologist varies, but may include:

  • Checking that packaging meets marketing, financial, legal and environmental requirements.
  • Working through a development brief, which contains details of the type of packaging that is needed and where to get it from, and finding out the cost of packaging.
  • Ensuring the products are packaged safely.
  • Testing and weighing materials in a laboratory.
  • Liaising with the marketing department, printers and others involved in purchasing, research and development, and production.
  • Negotiating with suppliers.

Some work involves overseeing the packaging production line.

Packaging technologists typically work 39 hours a week, Monday to Friday. Occasional late finishes may be required, especially when a deadline is approaching. Packaging technologists working within a production environment may work shifts.

Most of the work is office based. However, packaging technologists may also need to spend some time in laboratories, on the factory floor or visiting warehouses and distribution centres.

In the laboratory, warehouse and factory, technologists wear appropriate personal protective clothing such as overalls, headgear and gloves.

The basic starting salary may be around £20,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

A wide variety of companies employ packaging technologists. These include specialist firms that focus on using a particular type of material for packaging, such as plastic, glass or aluminium. Other employers include national High Street companies that do their own packaging for products such as food, confectionery, clothing and medicines.

Opportunities exist in all parts of the UK, particularly in large cities. There are roughly equal numbers of applicants to vacancies, although the number of job opportunities is increasing.

Jobs are advertised in local and national newspapers, in specialist magazines such as Packaging News, and on the websites of companies and organisations involved in packaging.

Education and Training

Most packaging technologists enter the job after taking an initial degree or HND in a science subject. Materials science, food technology, nutrition, physics and chemistry are particularly relevant subjects. A number of colleges also run courses in packaging and design, including specialist Foundation degrees.

The minimum entry requirements for a degree course are two A levels/three H grades, including at least one science-based subject, and five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), including English, maths and a science subject, or equivalent qualifications.

The minimum qualifications for a relevant HND are one A level/two H grades, including a science-based subject, and four GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), including English, maths and a science subject, or equivalent qualifications.

Foundation degrees in packaging and design require one A level/two H grades, including a science-based subject, and four GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), including English, maths and a science subject, or equivalent qualifications.

Postgraduate courses are also available, such as the Masters Degree in Materials for Industry at the University of Loughborough, or the Masters Degree in Packaging Technology Management at Brunel University.

Some technologists start as packaging line operators and gradually move up to become packaging technologists. It may be possible to start in the industry as an apprentice.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Packaging technologists usually receive on-the-job training from experienced technologists or managers. It is also possible to attend courses offered by IoP: The Packaging Society, and achieve qualifications awarded by the Packaging Industry Awarding Body Company (PIABC). Qualifications include the:

Certificate in Packaging at Level 3. Students study five units, which takes approximately 64 hours. There is a written test and four assignments. Entry requirements are five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), or equivalent qualifications.

Diploma in Packaging Technology at Level 4. Students study five units, which cover the fundamentals of packaging, hazards of the supply chain, legislation and the environment. Students have to pass four exams and successfully complete an assignment. Entry requirements are one A level/two H grades and five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), or equivalent.

A Diploma will help you make a more informed choice about the type of learning that best suits you and about what kind of work or further study you may want to do afterwards.

NVQ's/SVQ's at Level 2 for Packaging Operators are available. Further courses are also being developed.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A packaging technologist should:

  • Be good at science.
  • Have a detailed technical understanding of the industry.
  • Have a wide knowledge of materials.
  • Have good analytical skills.
  • Be skilled in problem solving and planning how work is to be carried out.
  • Understand how colours and shapes are used in design.
  • Be able to present ideas both verbally and in writing.
  • Have good communication and ICT skills.
  • Be able to work in a team, as well as take individual responsibility.
  • Have commercial awareness.

Your Long Term Prospects

Packaging technologists may be able to progress into management or decide to specialise in, for example, the engineering aspects of packaging or a design-orientated area such as gift boxes.

Some experienced technologists work as consultants, or take the opportunity to work abroad.

Get Further Information

IoP: The Packaging Society,
Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining,
Springfield House, Springfield Business Park,
Grantham, Lincolnshire NG31 7BG
Tel: 01476 514590
Website: www.iop.co.uk

Packaging Industry Awarding Body Company (PIABC),
Springfield House, Springfield Business Park,
Grantham, Lincolnshire NG31 7BG
Tel: 01476 514595
Website: www.pi2.org.uk

The Paper Industry Technical Association (PITA),
5 Frecheville Court, Bury, Lancashire BL9 0UF
Tel: 0161 764 5858
Website: www.pita.co.uk

Proskills UK, Centurion Court,
85b Milton Park, Abingdon OX14 4RY
Tel: 01235 432032
Website: www.proskills.co.uk

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