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Materials Engineering Careers, Jobs and Career Information

Materials Engineering Career Overview

Material engineers deal with extracting, developing, processing and testing of various materials and minerals which are used in order to produce a huge variety of consumer goods like computer chips, television sets, golf clubs and snow skis. New materials are created out of metals, ceramics, plastics, semiconductors, and combinations of materials called composites by these engineers, which are needed for mechanical, chemical and electrical industries. New materials are also chosen by these engineers for new applications and products.

New developments inn the materials industry has lead to new ways of manipulation and use of materials. For instance, materials engineers have devised the method of creating and then studying materials at an atomic level using advanced technology and processes and replicating the nature of materials and their components with computers.

Most metallurgical engineers are employed in one of the three branches of metallurgy—extractive or chemical, physical, and process. Extractive metallurgists are involved in separating metals from their ores and then work to refine and alloy them to manufacture required inputs for industrial operations. Physical metallurgists study the characteristics, structure, and physical natures of metal and metallic alloys to devise the most efficient method of converting basic materials into their finished products. Process metallurgists are involved in developing and improving processing which are concerned with working on metals such as casting, forging, rolling, and drawing. Most of these engineers tend to specialize in one material like metallurgical engineers specialize in metals, while ceramic engineers devise ceramic materials and in all the processes required for converting ceramic materials into useful consumer goods. Ceramics include all nonmetallic and inorganic material that usually require high temperatures in their processing. Ceramic engineers work on products as varied as glassware, automobile, and aircraft engine components, fiber-optic communication lines, tile, and electric insulators.

In 2002, materials engineers were employed in around 24,000 jobs. Materials engineers are widely spread in the manufacturing sector because materials are building blocks raw materials for other goods. Around 68 percent of materials engineers were employed in manufacturing industries, mainly in computer and electronic products, transportation equipment, fabricated metal products, primary metal production, and machinery manufacturing. They were also employed in the services industries like professional, scientific, and technical services. Other remaining materials engineers were employed by Federal and State governments.

Materials Engineering Job and Employment Opportunities

It is predicted that the employment of materials engineers will increase through 2012, but slower as compared to other occupations. Although many of the manufacturing industries in which materials engineers are employed in are expected to experience economic declines in employment, more materials engineers will be needed to develop new materials for electronics, biotechnology, and plastics products. As such employment growth is expected in professional, scientific, and technical services industries because engineers are hired on contracts from manufacturing firms. Job opportunities will also arise from transfers and retirements of existing engineers.

Historical Earnings Information

In 2002, the median salaries earned by materials engineers were $62,590 annually. The middle 50 percent received salaries between $49,810 and $77,500. The lowest 10 percent received below $39,360 while the highest 10 percent earned above $92,690.

In a 2003 salary survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, materials engineers with a bachelor’s degree received starting salaries of around $44,680 annually.

Seasoned engineers may earn even more.