Materials engineering, also known as materials science, uses science and technology to examine the structure and composition of solid materials. Read on to see if this flexible sub-field in engineering might be right for you.
Is Materials Engineering for Me?
If you enjoy complex problem solving and using critical thinking methods to find solutions, then a career in materials engineering may be what you are looking for. Materials engineers find new uses for materials and use scientific methods and procedures to create new materials. They often work with a variety of compounds such as plastics, metals and ceramics. Materials engineers should have good math skills and a solid foundation in chemistry and physics.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported very little, if any, growth for materials engineers, with job opportunities projected to increase by only 1% between 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov). Materials development for new materials and biotechnology will likely see the most growth during this period, according to the BLS. The 2012 median salary for materials engineers was $85,150. The top ten percent of materials engineers made over $130,020 in 2012. Materials engineers also have the ability to specialize in different kinds of materials, giving them flexibility regarding their areas of expertise.
How Can I Become a Materials Engineer?
Completing a bachelor's degree program in engineering is a solid starting point if you are interested in pursuing a career in materials engineering. Engineering programs will usually have a heavy emphasis on math followed by study in the area of specialization that you choose. Specializations in materials engineering can include biomaterials, polymers, optical materials and materials modeling, just to list a few. Some course options for materials engineering students are chemistry and physics of ceramics, materials optics, mineral processing and materials in solar energy.
Graduate Education, Licensing and Certification
Some engineers will continue on to a master's program in order to become professors or to work on advanced research projects. Many engineers will become licensed after obtaining four years of work experience combined with holding an engineering degree and passing an examination. Materials engineers are able to obtain other certifications which can lead to promotions in management or other lead positions.