What is packaging systems and design?

The packaging systems and design major focuses on the use of sustainable materials in the transportation, storage, and delivery of products that must arrive safely, be easy to use, and minimize their carbon footprint. The curriculum emphasizes both creativity and problem-solving — a critical combination that will make you highly competitive in the 21st-century job market. There are many industries that rely on the packaging industry, from the food and beverage sector to pharmaceuticals and healthcare to the world of online shopping.

Learn more about this major and the Department of Sustainble Biomaterials.

What will I learn in this major?

In addition to taking required courses in marketing, chemical and physical sciences, and technical writing, students majoring in packaging systems and design also complete coursework in areas such as computer-aided design (CAD), packaging law and regulation, structure and properties of sustainable biomaterials, paper packaging, distribution systems, wood mechanics, packaging design, and pallet and container design.  

Graduates from the packaging systems and design program have a near 100-percent job or graduate school placement rate at graduation.

Why study packaging systems and design at Virginia Tech?

  • CNRE’s packaging systems and design program was ranked No. 7 among the top 20 packaging programs in the U.S. by Value Colleges for 2017-2018.
  • Facilities utilized by students and faculty include the Unit Load Testing Lab, with equipment that helps students understand how packaging, pallets, and distribution equipment work together to optimize load storage and distribution design, and the Packaging Materials Lab, which provides analytical testing and research services on the physical, chemical, and structural properties of packaging systems and materials.
  • Each year, up to five students are selected to participate in the Sustainable Packaging Designer Trainee Program, which affords students a full-time summer internship and two years of part-time work experience as a lab technician in the Center for Packaging and Unit Load Design.
  • The department also works with packaging companies to provide internship and full-time job opportunities for students. Internships are available with food packaging, corrugated packaging, packaging graphics, and plastic packaging companies.
  • The Center for Packaging and Unit Load Design works with private companies and government agencies to conduct testing on product protection for both consumer and industrial products. As an independent certified International Safe Transit Association (ISTA) facility, they test corrugated, paper, wood, metal, and plastic containers for clients.
  • A minor is available in wood science.
  • Student clubs and organizations such as the Packaging Systems and Design Club of Virginia Tech provide an opportunity to connect with others with similar interests and get involved on campus and in the community.

What can I do with a degree in packaging systems and design?

Graduates in packaging systems and design may enter the job market or pursue a graduate degree in the field. Career possibilities are listed below, and potential employers include private companies who package and ship manufactured goods, as well as government agencies.

  • Packaging designer — Works as a graphic designer and creates packaging that appeals to customers and preserves the product.
  • Packaging engineer — Plays a critical role in providing customer satisfaction by supervising the tasks involved in developing a package that protects goods from production to consumption.
  • Packaging research scientist — Analyzes the packaging, handling, storage, and shipment methods of goods to aid industries in meeting consumer needs, and utilizes simulation and computer technology to test all aspects of packaging.
  • Process engineer — Designs and manages packaging systems to ensure product integrity from warehouse handling to the shipping process.
  • Production manager — Plans, coordinates, and manages manufacturing processes. 
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