The textile industry is one of the most important industries in North
America. Textiles are used in everything from the socks we wear to the cars
If you want to work in some aspect of the dynamic textile industry,
you could potentially find work anywhere.
Textile and fiber production are among the oldest industries in the world.
For thousands of years, humans have woven, knitted and spun a limited number
of natural materials into various forms of clothing, carpets, home furnishings
and other goods.
Until the 18th century, the textile industry was limited to producing cloths
and fibers from a small number of fibers found in nature, including cotton,
linen, silk and wool. However, natural fibers are scarce, expensive and fragile.
Linen, for example, wrinkles easily; silk is rare, and wool is prone to shrinkage.
It was not until synthetic (man-made) fibers were discovered that the textile
manufacturing industry really made an impact on our lives.
Nylon created a revolution in the fiber industry when it was invented in
1931. Unlike the manufactured fibers that came before it, such as rayon or
acetate, which were developed from plant cellulose, nylon was completely synthesized
from petrochemicals. The emergence of nylon as a fiber that could be used
virtually anywhere opened new doors for fiber manufacturing.
According to Khaled Mezghani at the Center for Materials Processing in
Tennessee, the textile industry manufactures fibers for many different uses.
"Textiles today are used not only in fashion design but in all areas of
life, such as home furnishings, medicine, aeronautics and pharmaceuticals."
Opportunities in Textiles
Today, the textile industry uses cutting-edge technology to produce and
manufacture new multifunctional fibers for use in the home and the workplace.
The industry employs thousands of highly specialized individuals in areas
such as chemistry, engineering and fiber technology.
So if the textile industry interests you, but your area of expertise is
engineering or chemistry and not fashion design, the opportunities for employment
Engineers and chemists develop new washing processes and chemicals to coat
and protect fabrics and invent new ways of spinning, weaving and manufacturing
yarns and fibers.
Textile engineers work in areas as diverse as plant and design engineering,
process engineering, production, supervision, quality control, research and
design, as well as corporate management. They can tailor fabrics to make them
fire resistant, stain resistant and wrinkle free.
Textile managers are usually streamed into mid-level management or manager-trainee
positions in sales, marketing, and finance as well as human resources. Polymer
and textile chemists focus on technical services, plant operations, research
and development, and environmental control.
"The starting salaries for individuals who graduate from the textile and
fiber engineering program are amongst the top salaries recorded at the school,"
says Maria Dunn. She is a counselor at the Georgia Institute of Technology's
school of materials science and engineering.
She's quick to add that "the more highly specialized your area, the more
money you are likely to make."
American Apparel and Footwear Association
Get information on the industry
Gives fact sheets, news updates and links
Georgia Institute of Technology
School of materials science and engineering