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Materials Engineer: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a materials engineer. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and useful abilities to find out if this is the right career for you.

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Materials engineers develop processes to create materials used in a variety of products. They work with materials such as plastics and metals depending on product specifications. Materials engineers with advanced positions typically have a master's degree.

Essential Information

Individuals interested in the field of engineering and creating necessary materials for a variety of functions might consider becoming a materials engineer. These engineers create new composites or develop new uses for materials, such as making semiconductors for fiber-optic communication systems out of ceramic and metal. They develop, test and process materials for the manufacturing, communications and civil engineering industries. Breaking into this field requires at least a bachelor's degree, but a master's degree may be needed to advance.

Required Education Bachelor's degree (entry-level); master's degree (advanced positions)
Other Requirements Field experience and related computer software knowledge (preferred)
Licensure Some states require materials engineers to earn Professional Engineer licensure
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 1%
Median Salary (2015)* $91,310

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description of a Materials Engineer

Materials engineers typically specialize in metals, plastics or ceramics. They may develop composite materials, or study the atomic structure of materials in order to discover new applications for their mechanical, electrical or chemical properties. Engineers may use power tools, lab equipment and computer technology to process materials.

Materials engineers may be employed by manufacturers, research groups, consulting firms, educational institutes or other similar organizations. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 1% job growth for materials engineers between 2014 and 2024. These engineers earn a median salary of $91,310, as of May 2015 (www.bls.gov).

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Job Duties for a Materials Engineer

Materials engineers design and create new materials and the processing technology to produce those materials. Job duties include analyzing materials and data, conducting tests, troubleshooting, monitoring performance, insuring quality control and creating documentation.

Materials engineers may be responsible for developing new methods of testing, training technicians and lab workers, maintaining inventories and ordering supplies. Engineers must also stay up-to-date on industry standards, government regulations and new developments in their field.

Education and Career Requirements for a Materials Engineer

The BLS maintains that engineers usually need a bachelor's degree to obtain an entry-level job and a master's degree for advanced positions in product development. Bachelor's degree programs in materials science or materials engineering provide hands-on training. Courses in a materials engineering degree program may cover thermodynamics, bonding properties of polymers and inorganic material production. Some programs offer concentrations, such as metallurgy or electronic materials.

According to a December 2010 job search on Monster.com, experience developing and processing materials is usually preferred. Job postings also indicate that some employers require applicants to have experience with relevant computer software, manufacturing processes and 3-dimensional modeling techniques. Though a Professional Engineer (PE) license is not a standard requirement to become a materials engineer, some states may require it; becoming a PE involves passing a series of exams.

Materials engineers identify new uses for materials used in a range of products. A bachelor's degree is standard for entry-level positions, field experience is generally preferred, and some states require licensing. Projected job growth for materials engineers is lower than the average for all occupations until 2024.

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