How to Become a Materials Engineer

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Materials are essential to every day life from clothing, appliances, cars, toys to buildings and structures. Materials engineering is a very important field that involves the structure and development of materials. Trained professionals are required to study the structure, behavior, and ways to develop materials. This is the job of materials engineers.

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What does a materials engineer do?

Materials engineers are engaged in the development, testing, and processing of materials that are used to create a vast variety of products. They commonly work with many different materials including metals, plastics, ceramics, composites, semiconductors, and others. They make new materials according to chemical, electrical, and mechanical requirements. They also chose materials for new uses. Materials engineers study materials at the atomic level and use sophisticated computer processes to duplicate the traits of materials and their mechanisms. Majority of materials engineers specialize in a specific material such as metals and steel or ceramics.

Materials engineers also constantly observe the performance of materials and assess problems. They analyze problems that occur in materials and attempt to determine the causes and create solutions by using data and laboratory tests. They supervise or conduct tests themselves to make sure materials are of high quality.

What kind of training does a materials engineer need?

Materials engineers typically need a bachelor degree in materials engineering. Materials engineering programs provide instruction in physics, mathematics, chemistry, and courses dedicated to the new materials development and testing. Research positions require materials engineers to have graduate degrees.

All 50 states require materials engineers who provide service directly to the public to be licensed. Licensed engineers are called professional engineers (PE). A degree from an accredited program, 4 years of related work experience, and passing a State examination are requirements for licensure. Materials engineers must stay up to date on advances in technology and regularly complete continuing education courses.

What are the prospects for a career as a materials engineer?

Employment of materials engineers is projected to grow slower than average for all professions, increasing 4% from 2006 to 2016 (1). Growth will be strong in biomaterials and nanomaterials fields.

Job prospects are expected to be fair and will be the best for materials engineers with extensive training and experience. Job openings will also arise from the need to replace materials engineers who retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do materials engineers make?

As of July 2009, the middle 50% of materials engineers earned annual salaries between $54,134 and $63,018. The highest 10% earned annual salaries of more than $66,103 (2).

A career as a materials engineer is a great choice for individuals who have a strong interest in the properties and creation of materials. Materials engineers must be detail oriented, analytical, inquisitive, and creative. They need great communication and interpersonal skills and be able to work effectively as part of a team. Great problem solving, thinking, and leadership skills are also important.

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