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More Than Just Prototypes: 3D Printing as A Career

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If you’ve ever visited the Rutgers Makerspace on Livingston Campus, then you’ve likely observed—or perhaps even used—3D printing: the technology capable of transforming project concepts and creative ideas from simple designs into tangible, functional, three-dimensional objects.

The Makerspace printers have the ability to generate everything from design prototypes and mechanical parts to toys, action figures, fashion items, and more. “Students can design and create pretty much anything they can dream up,” says Lee Pagenkopf, manager and MBS alumnus, noting that staff assistance, printing technology, and workspace are provided free of charge to students.

But can this fun be turned into a career? Absolutely.

A recent market analysis report estimated the 3D printing industry to be valued at $32.78 billion by 2023, at an annual growth rate of 25.76%. The industry job market holds particular promise and opportunities for candidates focused on careers in engineering, computer and information sciences, and life sciences—which is great news for MBS students.

How Does 3D Printing Work? Are There Real-World Applications?

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing (AM), is a way of making three-dimensional solid objects from a computer-generated digital file.

Once the 3D art or CAD (computer-aided design) is generated, the digital file is then “printed” by adding layer upon layer of material—whether the material is plastic, metal, food, concrete, or, as discussed in our last blog, human bioprinted tissue.

Although the technology was first developed in the early 1980s, the 3D printing process was initially very expensive, very slow, and was primarily used for prototyping.

With rapid improvements starting roughly a decade ago, the technology is now so advanced that it is used to manufacture everything from medical implants to fashion products to automobiles to dental restorations and hearing aids—in fact, 99% of the world’s hearing aids are now produced using this technology.

What Industries Use 3-D Printing?

The explosive growth and expanded use of 3D printing technology continue to open up employment opportunities in a vast number of highly diverse fields—from aerospace to education to medicine.

The job outlook is particularly promising for MBS students, as the greatest manpower needs, across all industries, are for engineers, software developers, and candidates with a background in life sciences—in particular, to aid the rapidly growing field of 3D bioprinting.

Currently, the top industries, job titles, and common employers are as follows:



What Kinds of Jobs Are Advertised?

Due to the nature of the 3D printing process itself—requiring computer-generated art and precise design—it is no surprise that four of the five top occupations are in the fields of engineering and software development.  However, sales management, the fifth-top position, has the potential to grow most rapidly of all occupations.

Top Occupations

  • Mechanical Engineering – 42%
  • Industrial Engineering – 33%
  • Software Development--10%
  • Materials Engineering—10%
  • Sales Management –5%

Why Sales Management?

As 3D technology continues to advance and expand, so will the need for individuals who not only have technical knowledge of various 3D printing processes, but who possess solid interpersonal and communication skills to lead in customer-facing positions like sales and marketing—individuals who can speak fluently, strategically, and persuasively to market and sell 3D printing technologies.

What Technical Skills Are Required?

While 3D printing is a specialized area of knowledge, “the applications are so varied that anyone with knowledge of how they can be best adapted and utilized could find excellent employment opportunities.”

That statement, opined in a 2016 article about 3D printing careers, remains highly relevant three years later—as the 3D printing industry continues to rapidly change and grow.

Currently, the most requested technical skills are as follows:


What Software Skills Are Necessary?

Surprisingly, software skills were not a critical requirement on job postings we analyzed. With the exception of SolidWorks (22%), software skills were requested on less than ten percent of postings nationwide.



Excerpts from Job Descriptions:

To provide a flavor for the types of work, we extracted wording from various job descriptions:

  • Senior Product Design Engineer 

You will work with product development, marketing, sales, and other internal and external partners to meet or exceed the defined criteria for aesthetics, features, cost, manufacturability, safety, and quality within a scheduled time frame. This work requires an individual who excels at creative problem solving and can effectively communicate conceptual solutions through technical descriptions, sketches, 3D CAD drawings, and functional prototypes.

  • 3D Printing Sales Director

Seeking a dynamic, enthusiastic, process-driven, and creative 3D Printing Sales Director to play an integral role in our expansion. Your sales activities will include prospecting, qualification of opportunities, demonstrations, requirements analysis, ROI studies, and executive-level presentations. 

  • Craniomaxillofacial (CMF) Clinical Engineer

We are seeking a recent graduate who can bring creativity and professionalism to the position of Craniomaxillofacial (CMF) Clinical Engineer. You will be responsible for·supporting surgeons in planning their medical treatments using our Pre-Surgical Planning software for cranio-facial reconstruction. 

  • Senior Software Engineer

    You will lead the effort to define, develop and build software architecture for the new generation of industrial-scale metal additive manufacturing machine—allowing efficient workflow from 3D CAD models to printed parts. You will work with our additive manufacturing and process control experts to continually develop and optimize the additive manufacturing process.

If you are interested in learning more about 3D printing and/or practical application of the technology, Rutgers offers the following courses:

Design Innovation: Make and Market Anything 16:137:529
This course teaches and employs design thinking to create a variety of products via hands-on tasks, studio-style works, and a comprehensive "make anything" 3D printing lab.

Biofabrication Fundamentals: Biomaterials, 3D Bioprinting and Cell Culture 16:137:60    
This lab-based, hands-on course explores the application of bioprinting in a variety of fields, including: biotechnology, the biomedical industry, healthcare, personal care, cosmetics, textiles, prototyping, and food sciences.



The exponential expansion and improvement of 3D printing technology—and 3D printing’s dramatic impact on multiple industries—is creating a wealth of new job opportunities across a spectrum of career fields.

In particular, the 3D printing industry provides unique and plentiful job opportunities for MBS students, as degrees in engineering, computer & information sciences, and life sciences can open doors to positions in multiple industries where technical knowledge and soft skills are equally valued and required.


This blog analyzes jobs advertised between January 1, 2018, and December 31, 2018, using a tool called Labor Insight from Burning Glass Technologies. By mining the detailed information stored in job postings, we can determine what employers are looking for when they fill roles in bioprinting. The positions were selected based on having a job title containing the words: “digital fabrication” and “3D printing.”

While this analysis can show trends in the job market, there are limitations. We only included jobs advertised online. The unstructured nature of job ads can make it difficult for the system to identify individual pieces of information effectively in some cases. While Labor Insight breaks up the job description into fields for analysis, inconsistency in the formatting of job descriptions and industry-specific terminology or titles may result in the inclusion of some irrelevant jobs. 

Jen Reiseman-Briscoe
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