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The forest products industry is one of the most vital industries in the state of Mississippi and in the United States. The combined employment of the furniture, lumber, wood products, composites, and paper sectors on the economy far exceeds the employment of any other manufacturing sector in the state. The forest products industry in Mississippi recognizes the need for well-trained young people to help increase conversion efficiencies and alter manufacturing processes to allow compatibility with a changing raw material base. While the industry is very large in terms of employment and value-added, the total number of processing facilities is only a few thousand nationwide and a few hundred in Mississippi. Mississippi State's forest products graduates have always been in high demand with relatively high starting salaries and excellent opportunities for advancement. Career opportunities are available in many sectors of the industry. Four of these include: manufacturing, marketing, technical services, and research.
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Careers in manufacturing are concerned with product and process development, quality or production control, engineering, personnel relations, and management. Manufacturing is the most diverse area within the forest products field and the one chosen most often by students at Mississippi State. Graduates who specialize in this area may initially find employment as production supervisors, as management trainees and design engineers for companies specializing in timber construction, or as quality control technicians in forest products. Many then move on to become plant managers and executives.
Today, marketing is recognized as a key element in the overall business strategy of forest products firms. Marketing is the income-producing side of a business, and students who specialize in marketing often have their first job in sales, moving later to management of a regional or national account. Others with analytical aptitudes may be employed as market research analysts or product-market development managers.
Technical service representatives for wood industry suppliers use their knowledge of wood to enhance the efficiency of their clients' operations. Employment may be with a chemical company, machinery manufacturer, or other service-oriented business. Forest products associations, the federal government, and state government can provide technical input about broad industry problems. They also can answer consumers' questions and establish product standards. Forest products companies employ technical, environmental, and engineering specialists, especially in multi-plant operations.
Inquisitiveness, imagination, and ingenuity are necessary characteristics for the wood scientist who pursues a career in research. Many new and improved wood products and processes have resulted from wood research over the past 40 years. Employment opportunities exist with large forest products firms, universities, and government agencies. Research areas range from developing new plastics from wood to a method of cutting wood without producing sawdust. Individuals seeking research careers should have graduate training. The Forest Products Laboratory at Mississippi State is among the world's leading forest products research laboratories. Graduate students receive training at the Laboratory using state-of-the-art scientific equipment under the guidance of world renowned faculty members.