Extractive Metallurgist: Job Description & Salary

Learn about a career as an extractive metallurgist. The following article provides valuable information including job description, required education, median annual salary, and career outlook.

What is an Extractive Metallurgist?

Extractive metallurgists, also known as materials engineers as well as metallurgists, work with metals and ores. Specifically, extractive metallurgists study the chemical and physical composition of metals, both ferrous and non-ferrous. They study processes and methods for extracting ores from their component metals. These extracted ores are then alloyed for use in various industries. Extractive metallurgists are responsible for analyzing metal samples for impurities, known as inclusions in materials engineering and metallurgy, that can filter into the quality of the metal thus degrading its quality. In the steel manufacturing industry, extractive metallurgists use software known as the automated steel cleanliness analysis tool (ASCAT). Similar applications are used in other metal industries.

Defects in metals adversely affect the resultant ore extracted from base metals and as such, the extractive metallurgist also uses scientific tools and procedures such as scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and metallography to identify defects and inclusions in metals during the refining and alloying processes. In the ore extraction process, extractive metallurgists also are responsible for adding other chemical elements for metals such as aluminum, steel, and other metals in the alloyed form to add requisite specific qualities and/or characteristics needed in the alloy for specific industrial purposes. Those serving as senior metallurgists may also be responsible for designing, implementing, and maintaining best practices for a mill's metallurgical laboratory. Extractive metallurgists might also manage and provide mentoring to the mill's metal assaying personnel.

Educational Requirements Bachelor's degree
Job Skills Knowledge of metallurgy and metallurgical processes, analytical skills, knowledge of alloys and super-alloys, experience with metallography and scanning electron microscopy (SEM), technical and PC skills, ability to interpret data and communicate results, higher math skills
Median Salary (2018)* $92,390 (materials engineers)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 2% (materials engineers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

A bachelor's degree in materials engineering, materials science, metallurgy, or a related engineering field is required. Five or more years of work experience in a related field is usually required. Many employers look for applicants with degrees from programs accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).

Required Skills

Extractive metallurgists must possess very strong analytical skills because they are responsible for studying metal samples to identify any impurities, known as inclusions, that may adversely affect the resultant extracted ore from the metal. Such analysis is highly mathematical in nature so the extractive metallurgist requires considerable knowledge of higher math, like calculus, which is used extensively in the analysis process. Because extractive metallurgists use scientific methods to study metals, ores, and alloys, they must have very strong technical skills. Significant skills in high-end technological processes and software applications, such as scanning electron microscopy (SEM), metallography, and automated steel cleanliness analysis tools (ASCAT) are required.

Career Outlook and Salary

In May 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the annual median salary for materials engineers was $92,390. The job outlook for materials engineers is expected to grow at a 2% rate according to the BLS. The BLS notes that this rate is slower than the national average for all other occupations, which is due to the overall slow growth rate in traditional industries.

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