For those who hold a bachelor's degree in an engineering-related field, online materials science engineering master's degree programs are available. Because materials science generally requires hands-on laboratory work, such programs may be offered as hybrid programs with online theoretical coursework and on-campus laboratory requirements. Depending on whether students choose a thesis or a non-thesis master's track will also help determine whether they have to spend a lot of time on campus. Materials scientists generally need a bachelor's degree for entry-level positions and a master's or doctoral degree for research and managerial positions.
Master of Science in Materials Science and Engineering
Materials scientists study the structure and properties of matter. Students of materials science learn how to analyze all types of materials to determine their usefulness and limitations in applications like construction, manufacturing, nanotechnology and electronics. They examine manufacturing processes to find weaknesses, as well as determine procedures that are more effective.
Engineering schools typically offer materials science at the master's level, as either a Master of Science in Engineering (MSE) in Material Science and Engineering or a Master of Materials Science and Engineering (MME). Students learn to use assays, chemical analyses and electron microscopy to determine the structure and composition of substances. They use various forms of stress testing to estimate physical characteristics and failure points. Online programs cover the theory and science behind such analyses; however, laboratory courses exposing students to hands-on experimentation and high-tech equipment are only available in hybrid programs.
Program Information and Requirements
Online programs are open to applicants with a bachelor's degree in an engineering discipline, and a full-time student could expect to take 18-24 months to complete the program. Specializations may be available, in subjects like semiconductor processing or semiconductor packaging. Many programs require no on-campus residence. Some hybrid programs offer required core and laboratory courses only at the home campus, and students must arrange to spend time on-site to complete these requirements.
Students need access to a computer with a browser and an Internet connection in order to participate in lectures, handle assignments, conduct examinations and communicate with faculty, advisors and peers. Some programs require students to arrange for a proctor to monitor exams.
The curriculum provides online learners with advanced courses in materials engineering and analysis. Students are trained in the applications and limitations of specific materials. The program typically culminates in a master's project or research report.
Defects in Solids
This course examines the nature of bonding and defects in solids, as well as the effects of defects on matter's mechanical and physical properties. Examples of crystallographic and defect analyses are compared.
This course studies the mechanisms of corrosion, including galvanic corrosion, localized corrosion, electrochemical reduction reactions and environmentally-aided corrosion. Students learn the factors that affect corrosion, along with strategies to minimize corrosion failures.
Students are given an overview of the history of nanotechnology; its current applications and projections for future developments. Topics include point and space groups, the reciprocal lattice, carbon nanotubes, quantum dots, quantum wires and quantum wells. Current techniques for producing nanoscale particles are reviewed.
Material Failure Mechanisms
This course presents chemical, mechanical and electrical methods for predicting the failure of devices, materials and components. Topics covered include mechanical failures such as fatigue, creep and yielding. Testing methods are examined, including accelerated life testing, environmental testing and cumulative damage.
Instructors discuss the properties of electronic and magnetic materials, including metallic conductors, semiconductors, piezo-electric materials, optical materials and resistive alloys. Online learners examine relationships between physical properties, electronic configuration, crystal structure and defect structure.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), materials scientists tend to work normal hours in offices and laboratories (www.bls.gov). They also collaborate with engineers in manufacturing and testing facilities. The median annual wage for materials scientists, according to the BLS as of May 2018, was $99,800. The BLS expected employment to grow 3%, slower than the average for all occupations, from 2018-2028.
Degree programs in material science engineering are available online at the master's level and will include topics like corrosion science, material failure mechanisms, and electronic structures. These advanced degrees will open up more career options in a field in which job aspects have slowed considerably.