Materials engineers use their expertise to produce specifications for, design, process and apply materials effectively.
Their expertise lies in understanding the properties and behaviours of different substances, from raw materials to finished products. The field is also referred to as materials science or materials technology.
They work with many different materials, from ceramics to plastics, and polymers to industrial minerals.
Working in a diverse range of industries, materials engineers combine or modify materials in different ways to improve the performance, durability and cost-effectiveness of processes and products.
Employers of materials engineers
- Metal/materials production, manufacturing and process companies
- Research and development organizations
- Utilities companies
- Oil and gas companies
- selecting the best combination of materials for specific purposes
- testing materials to assess how resistant they are to heat, corrosion or chemical attack
- analyzing data using computer modelling software
- assessing materials for specific qualities (such as electrical conductivity, durability, renewability)
- developing prototypes
- considering the implications for waste and other environmental pollution issues of any product or process
- advising on the adaptability of a plant to new processes and materials
- working to solve problems arising during the manufacturing process or with the finished product, such as those caused by daily wear and tear or a change of environment
- supervising quality control throughout the construction and production process
- monitoring plant conditions and material reactions during use
- helping to ensure that products comply with national and international legal and quality standards
- advising on inspection, maintenance and repair procedures
- liaising with colleagues in manufacturing, technical and scientific support, purchasing and marketing
- supervising the work of materials engineering technicians and other staff
- considering the costs implications of materials used and alternatives, in terms of both time and money
- taking account of energy usage in manufacturing and in-service energy saving, e.g. in transport and construction applications.
Apart from a degree in materials engineering, technology or science, a number of other engineering and science-based subjects are acceptable for entry to this profession, including:
- applied chemistry
- applied physics
- ceramics and glass
- chemical engineering
- mechanical engineering
- minerals/mining engineering
- polymer science/technology
- structural engineering.
If your degree is in a science or engineering subject other than materials engineering, you may find that a relevant postgraduate qualification will open up more opportunities and will help with competition during the application process.
- Sound scientific and technical knowledge
- Analytical skills
- Leadership skills
- Effective organizational skills
- Communication and interpersonal skills
- Commercial awareness
- Team-working skills