Metallurgical Engineering and Technology
Learn about the field of metallurgical engineering and technology, including how much education you'll need to obtain a position. Find information about job growth and earnings for materials engineers here, and make an informed decision about your career.
Is Metallurgical Engineering and Technology for Me?
Metallurgical engineering is a sub-field of materials engineering that focuses on the use of steel and other metals to create new products and materials. This sophisticated field involves using computers and other technology to study metals at the atomic level. As a metallurgical engineer, you might focus on mineral processing or extracting and purifying metals. You can also specialize in physical metallurgical engineering, which involves creating alloys from various purified metals.
Job opportunities in metallurgical engineering and technology are available for both engineers and engineering technicians. Both positions typically require postsecondary training.
Employment and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), minimal to no change in employment was expected for materials engineers nationwide, including those working in metallurgical engineering, between 2012 and 2022. As of May 2013, the BLS also reported that the median annual wage for materials engineers, including ceramic engineers, metallurgists, metallurgical engineers and welding engineers, was $87,330 (www.bls.gov). Based upon national data reported by PayScale.com in May 2014, metallurgical technicians earned between $29,768 and $$54,220 a year, including bonuses and overtime.
How Can I Work in Metallurgical Engineering and Technology?
To get started in metallurgical engineering, you typically need at least a bachelor's degree in engineering, preferably one that has been accredited by the ABET (formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology). Although general engineering degrees are available, some colleges and universities offer bachelor's degree programs that allow you to specialize or major in metallurgical engineering or metallurgical and materials engineering.
Through a mixture of classroom and lab courses, metallurgical programs focus primarily on physical metallurgy, mineral processing and extractive metallurgy. They typically include instruction in particulate processing, statics engineering mechanics, thermodynamics and microstructural interpretation. You'll also study the mechanics of materials, transport phenomena and professional engineering; classes in materials engineering may cover other substances, such as ceramics and polymers. As an undergraduate, you'll also have to complete a general education core that includes courses in math, physics, chemistry and the social sciences, as well as training in the use of computer applications.
Graduate degree programs are also available in metallurgical engineering, which may be required for some basic research positions. Because of rapidly changing technology, some form of continuing education is essential for engineers.
Two-year and 4-year programs in engineering technology can help you acquire the training you need to work as a metallurgical technician. As hands-on courses of study, they're designed to prepare you for production and practical design work, rather than the more scientific and theoretical work of an engineer. This field is distinct from engineering, and technology programs aren't to be confused with pre-engineering programs. Although various vocational schools and colleges offer engineering technology programs, some employers may prefer graduates of an ABET-accredited program.
To excel as a metallurgical engineer or technician, you should also have good communication skills and the ability to work well within a team. An attention to detail, creativity and inquisitiveness, along with the ability to think analytically, can also help you succeed in metallurgical engineering.
In general, professional engineers who provide services to the public usually need a license. Requirements include completion of an accredited engineering program and an exam, as well as professional experience in the field; some government engineering positions may require security clearance.