What Is Materials Engineering?

Materials engineering works with materials at all levels down to the molecular and atomic. Materials engineering is fast becoming an important part of nanotechnology. Schools offering Engineering & Technology Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Materials Engineering Defined

Materials engineering is involved with the properties of matter and the application of those processes to science and engineering. During its early years, materials engineering was concerned with metal alloys, ceramics, polymers and exotic materials. In recent years, materials engineering has been involved with nanoscience and nanotechnology. Materials engineering is also an important part of forensic engineering and failure analysis.

Important Facts About Materials Engineers

Entry-level Education Bachelor's Degree
Similar Occupations Chemical engineers; material scientists; aerospace engineers; physicists
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 1% growth
Median Salary (2012) $87,690 per year

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Engineering New Materials

Materials engineering as a field is responsible for high-performance materials. New materials developed by materials engineers lead to new technologies in civil, aeronautical, agricultural, mechanical, and electrical engineering, among other fields.

Materials engineers study properties of a material in regards to its structure at all levels, down to individual atoms and the atomic structure. With this knowledge, a materials engineer knows how the material will be affected by the processing of the material. This can include bending, twisting, shaping and machining.

Related Fields

Materials engineering is directly related to materials science, which is why many schools include both fields in a degree program's curriculum. Materials science grew out of solid-state physics, metallurgy, ceramics and chemistry. This makes materials engineering important to fields such as:

  • Electronics
  • Aerospace
  • Telecommunications
  • Information processing
  • Nuclear power
  • Energy conversion

Practical Applications

Materials engineering isn't just developing new nanoparticles and polymers. Materials engineering has applications that benefit everyday life:

  • Analyzing product failure data and developing solutions
  • Monitoring material performance in evaluating material deterioration
  • Designing and directing the testing of processing procedure
  • Evaluating technical specifications and economic factors
  • Problem-solving in other engineering fields

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