Materials Engineering

Materials engineering is an interesting field that studies what items are made of. If you enjoy studying items, taking them apart and finding new ways to create them, this may be the type of engineering for you. Without materials engineering, we would not have innovative materials and high-tech equipment such as polyester fleece, windproof tents, waterproof boots, Velcro and titanium. Materials engineering professionals make all of these and a lot more possible.

Materials engineering is ideal for those who are curious and love to invent new things. In addition, you should love math and science, be very creative and be a problem solver. It also helps to be a visual thinker with a vivid imagination.

Materials engineering courses include metallurgy, electronic properties of materials, kinetics, composite materials, mechanical behavior, material design, phase relationships and thermodynamics. Before taking these classes, having taken previous courses in biology, computer science, physics, chemistry and calculus is helpful. Expect to attend a lot of lectures and labs.

Before applying for a materials engineering school, you should understand the requirements of the degree program and research the school fully. A materials engineering degree may take nearly five years to complete. You should expect to do an internship during your college career. In addition, you should be prepared to focus on a specialty within materials, such as metal or ceramics. When choosing a materials engineering school, you should ensure it is accredited. You should look for a school that offers the material specialty of your choice. You should also check out the labs. Do they have enough room for all the students to do their work? Are they well-equipped? You will probably spend a lot of time performing lab work, so you want to make sure it fits your expectations. You will also want to check out the course requirements. Are they challenging enough? What types of lab study will you be able to do? Will you get to do a final project or thesis? How often will you get to work with classmates? These are just of the questions you should have about materials engineering schools.

After you graduate from a materials engineering school, you will be expected to use your knowledge to evaluate existing materials and find new ways to make them better. This may include making them windproof, waterproof, more durable, easier to use and able to perform better overall. You will most likely focus on one type of material, such as plastic, ceramic, glass, metal or rubber. You will need to use your investigative nature to ask questions, perform tests, solve problems and think critically. You will be asked to meet complex design specification and performance standards. Materials engineering also includes many other tasks, such as analyzing data, managing a budget, preparing reports, reviewing new product plans, making recommendations, monitoring performance and supervising the work of others.

There are nearly 22,000 materials engineering jobs in the United States. They are found primarily in manufacturing industries, with some jobs in the services industry and government. Salaries can range from around $52,000 to as high as $127,000. The highest wages can be found in the professional and commercial equipment and electronic goods wholesale industries, at averages of more than $114,000 annually. The highest number of materials engineers can be found in California, which is also the third highest-paying state. Those with more education and experience in materials engineering earn more. Although a bachelor's degree is sufficient for many jobs, more and more are requiring master's and PhD degrees. In fact, these degrees have been very high in demand for the past several years. However, there is not expected to be much growth in the materials engineering field. In fact, declines are expected for some materials, such as glass, clay and stone.

Last Updated: 06/08/2014

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