Difference Between Material Science & Material Engineering

Materials scientists work with materials to improve their composition and function. Materials engineers decide what to use in the production of goods. While the work they do is complimentary, the differences in their focus are explored further here.

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Materials scientists and materials engineers have similar training and can perform some similar tasks in their work. The scope of their focus and work environment differ, though. Read on to compare these careers further.

Comparing Materials Science to Materials Engineering

The training needed to become a materials scientist or a materials engineer is comparable and these professionals earn similar salaries. Materials scientists may focus more on research and tests in order to determine how to improve products. Materials engineers do research as well, but they are concerned with all aspects of production including costs, the production process, and production quality.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Outlook (2014-2024)*
Materials Scientist Bachelor's Degree $99,430 3%
Materials Engineer Bachelor's Degree $99,310 1%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Materials Scientist vs Materials Engineer

Materials scientists and materials engineers work typical office hours and their work involves analyzing data and performing tests on materials. Materials scientists tend to be more involved with research and developing new ways to combine materials to improve how they function. For example, they might determine how to make plastics more durable. These professionals work more in an office or lab environment, while materials engineers may work more in factories or industrial settings. Materials engineers focus on products, the production process, and may be involved in recommending changes to their design. They may also assess production costs and create budgets, which is typically a duty outside the scope of materials scientists.

Materials Science

Materials scientists must possess strong research capabilities and expert knowledge in chemical compositions in order to develop new products using computers and lab instruments. Their work involves studying various products and their chemical properties, and can enhance or invent new materials based on their research, analysis, and test results. Products they work on range from pharmaceuticals to cleaning products. They can start their career by earning a bachelor's degree in chemistry or a similar discipline. Advancement is possible in this field. In order to move into research and senior positions it's necessary to gain practical experience and a graduate degree is required.

Job responsibilities of a materials scientist include:

  • Identify products that need to be tested
  • Determine the best way to test products
  • Assess product safety
  • Oversee technicians and other staff involved in the research
  • Recommend ways to improve product materials
  • Operate laboratory equipment
  • Collaborate with other scientists

Materials Engineering

Materials engineers primarily work in manufacturing, and they may be involved with the production of everything from aircraft parts to sports equipment. Their focus is on the components used to produce items, and they may determine different materials that can be used to improve the product or reduce production costs. They use computers to study materials at their chemical and atomic levels to solve engineering problems in a number of fields, such as chemical or nuclear. In order to become a materials engineer it's necessary to earn a bachelor's degree in this field. Some materials engineers may opt to complete graduate studies, which can increase their job opportunities since they will be qualified to pursue research positions.

Job responsibilities of a materials engineer include:

  • Assess the manufacturing process
  • Identify areas for improvement in product manufacturing
  • Alter or create materials to use in production
  • Study faulty products to identify issues
  • Prepare written assessments of production costs and processes
  • Make product budgets

Related Careers

If you're contemplating a career as a materials scientist, you may also be interested in the work that natural science managers do, since natural science managers perform research and development in a laboratory setting. If you're interested in materials engineering you may also want to consider aerospace engineering, since aerospace engineers are also involved in manufacturing aircraft.

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