how to become a materials engineer

What does a Materials Engineer do?

A materials engineer process, test, and develop materials used to make a large variety of products such as aircraft wings, computer chips, biomedical devices, or even golf clubs. They study and evaluate the structures and properties of metal, composites, ceramics, plastics, and nanomaterials to create new materials that can meet the particular chemical, electrical, and mechanical requirements.

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How to Become a Materials Engineer

materials engineer

A materials engineer must hold a bachelor’s degree in engineering and materials science or obtain a degree in a similar field. These programs should include classroom and laboratory work with an emphasis on engineering principles. Some colleges or universities offer a 5-year program where a student can obtain both a bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

A graduate degree, which might be Ph.D. Level, would allow an engineer to do research and development or be a postsecondary teacher. Often a college or university offers student cooperative programs and internships that have a partnership in the industry allowing one to get practical experience while finishing their education. Some employers prefer to employ an applicant who has graduated from an accredited program from the ABET and is usually necessary to become a licensed professional engineer. High school students that want to consider this career field should take classes in computer programming, mathematics, and science.

Job Description of a Materials Engineer

A materials engineer’s job is to study and create materials at an atomic level and use computers to replicate the characteristics of materials and their components. They have the task of planning and evaluating new projects, prepare budgets and proposals, write reports, and analyze labor costs among other managerial jobs.

A materials engineer may supervise the work of technicians, technologists, and other scientists and engineers. They would monitor the performance of materials and study how they deteriorate. A materials engineer would find and correct any product failure and evaluate economic and technical factors concerning the design objectives of products or processes. A materials engineer requires math and analytical skills as well as writing, problem-solving and speaking skills.

A materials engineer would mostly be found working in offices in order to have the needed access to design equipment and computers but others might work in research and development laboratories or factories.

Materials Engineer Career Video Transcript

Whether developing a new type of shatterproof glass for phone screens, or a heat-resistant compound to support Mars mission equipment, materials engineers and materials scientists have their fingerprints all over innovations in the industry. While both develop new products and improve existing ones, materials scientists focus on the structure and properties of materials, while materials engineers apply that knowledge to develop products. Both usually specialize in a principal material, such as ceramics, glass, metal, or semiconductors.

Materials scientists improve materials such as metallic alloys or superconducting materials so that products can have features and functions that were not possible previously. They also develop new materials. Materials scientists conduct experiments and analyze their results. Materials engineers select materials for specific products and develop new ways to use existing materials, continuously designing improvements. They prepare proposals and budgets, analyze labor costs, and may supervise technologists and technicians.

These professionals team up with other specialists, and generally work in offices, manufacturing facilities, or research and development labs. A bachelor’s degree in materials science, engineering, or a related field is needed for entry-level jobs. Materials scientists may also major in chemistry or physics, and may need a master’s degree or a Ph.D. and significant work experience to qualify for some jobs. A graduate degree allows an engineer to work as a college-level teacher or to do research and development.

Article Citations

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Materials Engineers.

National Center for O*NET Development. 17-2131.00. O*NET OnLine.

The career video is in the public domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.