How to Become a Materials Engineer

Materials Engineer

Materials engineers analyse materials to see how they will behave in particular situations. They research whether certain materials are suitable to be used in various projects, and will use tested methods to make them more durable and practical.

Materials engineers work with an array of materials to evaluate their performance and attempt to make them suitable for a particular purpose. They also create new materials when possible, which are then used for specific technologies. 

Materials engineers consider the properties of various materials, as well as their reactions with each other and with various substances, and how cost-effective they are in specific projects. This is a widely experimental role and will involve a large number of scientific tests using a range of materials. Vacancies are available across industries. 

The duties of a materials engineer include: 

  • Evaluating the reason why materials need to be used. 
  • Choosing the best types of materials using this knowledge.
  • Testing and evaluating the resistance levels of various materials. 
  • Analysing materials to evaluate their qualities and suitableness for various projects. 
  • Advising people on what products they should use. 
  • Overseeing the manufacturing processes and troubleshooting any difficulties. 
  • Ensuring that materials comply with health and safety standards. 
  • Investigating why some projects failed and reporting how failure can be avoided in the future. 
  • Designing manufacturing systems that use various materials.

To become a materials engineer, most candidates have a degree. This could be in materials engineering, or another engineering, technology, or science discipline. If the candidate does not have a materials engineering degree, a postgraduate course will strengthen their knowledge and make it easier to find work. 

Some degrees are accredited. These degrees are preferred by employers, but accreditation can be found through other means. 

It is possible to enter the career with a diploma in materials engineering or a technology or science qualification. However, candidates will generally enter at a lower-level role, and they will  progress slower. 

Candidates can train to become a materials engineering technician with no tertiary education. However, if they want to progress to the role of materials engineer, they will need to take further qualifications before they can gain accredited status. 

Any industrial placements will help boost an application. Many university courses have a year in industry where placements can be sought. Furthermore, candidates are recommended to join a professional body of material engineers, which will help them make connections within the industry. 

A large part of being a materials engineer is presenting data and information to colleagues – some who may not be engineers. They, therefore, should have excellent communication skills with both technologically and non-technologically minded people. 

Candidates should be able to work both as part of a team and individually. They will have a high amount of responsibility, which they should feel comfortable with, but will often have to collaborate with other engineers. 

Materials engineers need to be able to look at all of the different aspects of a material and look for tiny elements that could affect the project as a whole. Therefore, a natural attention to detail is crucial. Problem-solving is also a considerable part of a materials engineer’s career.

The job market for materials engineers is highly competitive, although talented, well-trained individuals shouldn’t struggle to find work. Companies invest a lot of money into materials engineering, so they are very selective in the hiring process. 

Materials engineering students or professionals are recommended to continuously broaden their knowledge, both while studying and working. Technology in this area changes quickly, so professionals must stay up to date. 

Materials engineers can be employed across industries. Some examples are the power industry, biomedical engineering, retail manufacturing, and others. Materials engineers will generally work in an office or a laboratory, although some supplier visits, potentially in other countries, may be necessary. Some industries require shift work.

Candidates will generally progress from a junior role to having chartered, professional status, where they will receive a higher wage and responsibilities. At a senior level, they will have more research and management responsibilities. Some candidates ultimately move into teaching or lecturing, whereas others set up their own business or work on a freelance basis

What degree is most commonly held by a Materials Engineer ?

  • Bachelor of Chemical Engineering
  • Bachelor of Electrical Engineering
  • Bachelor of Mining / Mechanical Engineering
  • Bachelor of Materials Engineering
  • Bachelor of Civil Engineering

Career Transportability across Countries

Transportability: High
As well as opportunities for travel to visit overseas suppliers, materials engineers may have chances to work abroad in international firms. Typically, a candidate will need a solid few years of experience before applying for international positions. They may be based abroad temporarily, for a few months or years, or they might have the chance to apply for permanent roles.

What is the Salary of a Materials Engineer ?

Experience Average salary | year
Materials Engineer 1-3 yrs $40,000 £37,500 $56,147
Materials Engineer 3-5 yrs $65,000 £55,089 $62,994
Materials Engineer 5-10 yrs $70,000 £74900 $85,000

What skills are needed to become a Materials Engineer ?

  • Engineering
  • Materials Science
  • Materials
  • Microsoft Office
  • Research
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Matlab
  • Metallurgy
  • Project Management
  • Failure Analysis
  • Manufacturing
  • Scanning Electron Microscopy
  • Microsoft Word
  • Characterization
  • Data Analysis
  • Teamwork
  • Leadership
  • Corrosion
  • R&D
  • SolidWorks
  • Inspection
  • Product Development
  • Public Speaking
  • Polymers
  • Project Engineering

Material Engineering Courses

As the competition is fierce, and companies must ensure that their materials engineers are experts, candidates should take some relevant courses while studying and in the early years of their profession. We have lots of suitable courses at FutureLearn, including discovering science: chemical products and technology metals for a green future.
  • Technology Metals for a Green Future

    Learn how critical raw materials are found and used and explore their role in contributing to a more sustainable future

  • Proficiency Testing Schemes for Materials Testing on Rural Roads

    Learn the value of Proficiency Testing Schemes PTS for soil and materials lab testing on rural roads and how to implement them

  • Exploring Everyday Chemistry

    Explore the organic chemistry behind perfume medicine brewing and sport from one of the UK's leading universities

  • Discovering Science: Chemical Products

    With chemistry providing us an endless amount of possibilities what would you choose to develop

Need even more evidence about why you should learn on FutureLearn?

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