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Materials Engineering

A career pathway which favours individuals who enjoy reshaping materials into new products and solutions.

What Materials Engineers Do

Materials Engineers evaluate materials and develop machinery and processes to manufacture materials for use in products that meet specialised design and performance specifications.

Materials Engineers develop new uses for known materials. This includes engineers working with composite materials or specializing in one type of material, such as graphite, metal and metal alloys, ceramics and glass, plastics and polymers, and naturally occurring materials.

It also includes metallurgists and metallurgical engineers, ceramic engineers, and welding engineers.

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Relevant Jobs & Tasks

Typical Tasks Include:

  • Review new product plans and make recommendations for material selection, based on design objectives such as strength, weight, heat resistance, electrical conductivity, and cost.
  • Supervise the work of technologists, technicians, and other engineers and scientists.
  • Analyze product failure data and laboratory test results to determine causes of problems and develop solutions.
  • Conduct or supervise tests on raw materials or finished products to ensure their quality.
  • Plan and implement laboratory operations to develop material and fabrication procedures that meet cost, product specification, and performance standards.

Metallurgical Engineers are concerned with working with metals to design new products and processes. Some Metallurgical Engineers specialise in Mineral Processing, which involves finding new, more effective, more efficient, or more environmental techniques for extracting metals out of the soil.

Others specialise in Physical Metallurgy, which involves creating new metals and alloys (combinations of metals) for unique products and construction.

Lastly, some Metallurgical Engineers may specialise in Extraction. This involves separating metal into its purest form by removing soil, water and other materials from the ore that has been mined.

Plastics engineers are concerned with the design, development, and manufacture of plastics products and processes.

Engineers typically work to minimise the costs of developing and designing plastic products, as well as their environmental impacts. At the same time, they have to ensure their design meets required specifications and can be mass-produced.

Plastics EngineeringMany Plastics Engineers work for the electrical and electronic equipment or motor vehicle markets.

Process Engineers are concerned with the design, operation, control, optimisation and intensification of chemical, physical, and biological processes. In the context of Materials Engineering, Process Engineers work to optimise the processes involved in developing new materials or improving previous designs.

This role involves significant amounts of designing, testing, assessing and refining processes until they are perfected.

How to become a Materials Engineer

Most Materials Engineer roles require a four-year bachelor’s degree.

A majority of Materials Engineers have studied at least a bachelor’s degree in Engineering, typically majoring in Materials, Mechanical or Chemical engineering.

A large number complete a Master’s degree to further develop their skills and experience. Some continue into PhD roles to specialise in specific materials or to pursue a pathway into academia.

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Materials Engineering requires/develops the following valuable skills

Adherence to Safety Requirements 70%
Collaboration and Team Management 85%
Conduct quantitative failure analyses of operational data. 80%
Data Analysis & Interpretation 75%
Evaluate plans or specifications to determine technological or environmental implications. 90%
Recommend technical design or process changes to improve efficiency, quality, or performance. 95%
Self-Management 75%
Supervise engineering or other technical personnel 85%

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This page includes information from O*NET OnLine by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (USDOL/ETA). Used under the CC BY 4.0 license. O*NET® is a trademark of USDOL/ETA.