Materials Science and technology

Materials science and technology involves the study of the chemical and physical properties of materials used to make a variety of objects. Learn more about work duties, degree programs, salary and employment outlook for this field.

Is Materials Science and Technology Right for Me?

Career Summary

Materials science and technology draws on the fields of applied physics, engineering and chemistry to study the properties of materials and how they can be used to create new products. Materials scientists play integral roles in the world's economy by helping in the manufacturing of a wide range of consumer-based products, including electronics, machinery, equipment and household goods. They also take part in the design and creation of innovative technologies and processes that might take advantage of biodegradable materials or renewable energy, for example.

Job Options

As a materials scientist, you can work in a variety of industries to help meet the ever-changing needs and demands of society. Materials scientists work in the chemical, biomedical, biotechnology, energy and food processing industries, to name a few. Companies that sell or manufacture products made of metals, ceramics, rubber and plastics often employ materials scientists as well. The type of industry or company you work for may be determined based upon your personal interests and the specialty developed within your degree program.

Employment Outlook and Salary Statistics

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that job growth for materials scientists and chemists was projected to be slower than the national average at just 6% over the 2012-2022 period (www.bls.gov). Materials scientists were expected to have job growth at 5% over this same period, according to the BLS. As of May 2012, the median annual wage for materials scientists was $88,990, also per the BLS.

How Can I Work in Materials Science and Technology?

Education Programs

Degrees in materials science and technology are available from the associate's to doctorate level. A degree program in chemistry, engineering or physics may also be good preparation for careers in materials science and technology. Many schools of engineering combine materials science into a materials engineering degree, which is offered at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree levels. Specialties within materials science programs can include fiber and polymer engineering, electronic materials, structural materials and biomaterials.

Degrees and Certificates

An associate's or bachelor's degree can prepare you for various entry-level jobs in manufacturing industries and companies as a research technician, materials testing technician or a biomedical equipment technician, for example. Advanced degree programs qualify graduates for careers in research, education and consulting, among others. In the area of research and development, you may work in laboratories or for professional, scientific and technical services firms as a materials engineer or manufacturing engineer. With a doctoral degree, you may also consider teaching and research in an academic environment. Undergraduate and graduate certificates are also available to students and professionals working in the field looking to advance their knowledge in certain areas, such as in nanoscale materials, biomaterials or plastics engineering.

Coursework

In a materials science and technology program, you'll likely take technical courses in composites and materials, polymer technology, manufacturing processes and design engineering. You'll learn about the chemical properties of materials, thermodynamics and materials selection while taking core courses in statistics, mathematics and chemistry.

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