Material Science Engineering Topics

Guide to a Career in Materials Science Engineering

What is Materials Science Engineering? The ability to manipulate, understand and properly use materials is an important measure of the sophistication of a civilization. This measure has been so important in history that entire eras have been given names based on their most important materials: the Stone Age, the Ice Age, the Bronze Age. Our lives are enhanced and restricted by our relationship and ability to use materials effectively.

The term "materials" is a general term that encompasses a lot; in fact, examples of materials are found almost everywhere we look. From our clothing, to our cars, to our homes, to our appliances, to our toys, to our many, many other things, materials are absolutely an integral part of our everyday lives. Currently, there are more than 300,000 known materials. Materials can loosely be classified into broad categories, including metals, ceramics, polymers, semiconductors, and composites.

Materials scientists and engineers study the behavior patterns of materials, how materials are made, and the best way to develop new materials. Much of the current materials science research and experimentation involve ceramics, metals, glasses, polymers, semiconductors, and biomaterials.

Just as innovative thinkers discovered that heating soft iron and immediately cooling it off would allow them to create farming tools and technology, materials engineers and scientists are constantly testing the potential of materials to improve life and advance modern technology. The importance of such work is truly remarkable.

The Future of Materials Science and Engineering

Without question, the technology that is developed and enhanced in the 21st century will continue to redefine the way we live. Advancements in medicine, computer science, energy, consumer products, architecture, and transportation are certainties. Materials Scientists and Materials Engineers will be essential to such advancement.

Based on the research of this field's innovative thinkers, materials are evolving faster today than ever before. As materials evolve so do the experiments that test their applications. Increased efficiency and evolvement ultimately results in better products, made with new and improved materials.

The future of materials science has no limits. The ability for materials scientists and engineers to enable better products for society's consumption ultimately means that the future job opportunities in this career field are exciting and promising in an increasingly competitive global economy.

Career Education in Materials Science Engineering

Preparing for Engineering School The most important method to properly prepare for a Materials Science and Engineering major involves excelling in high school mathematics, science, computer, and technology courses. Not only will such courses provide students with a solid educational background, but they also prepare students for the rigorous requirements of intense degree programs.

A potential student should consider his or her career education goals with the typical career path of a materials scientist and engineer. This will allow him or her to properly evaluate whether or not he or she is considering the best field of study for his or her personal interests.

Potential students should research all the materials science and engineering schools being considered. This research should be as detailed as possible; choosing a degree program is a big decision. Speak with admissions counselors at each school, and explore financial aid and career service programs. Contact current students and ask them about their experiences. While this may seem like a lot of work, it is well worth it when students make the ideal choice of college degree program for their situations.

Another way to prepare for pursuing a materials science degree is to interview a current materials scientist and engineer. Potential students should prepare a list of questions ahead of time that includes everything they want to know about this potential career. If possible, follow the interviewee around for a day and observe what a typical day in this field might be like. Obtaining this information will also help a potential student understand his or her own interest in studying materials science.

Materials Science and Engineering Degree Programs

These programs encourage students to focus on developing an in-depth knowledge of materials and their current and potential applications. This is a broad field of study, so students find many choices while enjoying the option of tailoring personal interest to a specific area of specialization. Perhaps a student intends to develop an initial set of general engineering skills before pursuing a more intense degree program, or maybe a professional engineer or materials scientist is hoping to dive into the important and exciting field of materials science with advanced study. Whatever an individual's interests happen to be, distance learning is an educational resource that offers a variety of opportunity and options.

Many materials science and engineering schools offer degree programs online. This trend should grow as advanced technology becomes more readily available. Not only are online degree programs becoming more common, they also sustain a solid reputation as an intelligent way to pursue an advanced education while continuing to work.

Online students participate in Internet tutorials, web demonstrations, and interactive labs. Students use technology to fulfill hopes of obtaining a degree in materials engineering and science, and they have a vast selection of online learning programs to choose from.

Certificate Programs
Materials science and engineering certificate programs are a worthwhile way for current engineering professionals to gain a more focused knowledge of materials science and its relation to engineering. Online materials science engineering certificate programs are generally designed for existing materials scientists and engineers who have already obtained a certain level of education. Such programs encourage students to hone skills in a narrow, focused facet of materials science.

For example, a potential student may decide that he wants to develop expertise in biomaterials in order to advance his career. An online certificate appeals to this potential student. Developing a level expertise in a segment of materials science could certainly translate into greater employment opportunities and job advancement. Certificate programs vary, and potential students should discuss particular degree programs with school admissions counselors.

Associate Degree
Many students begin their careers in materials science with an educational background in engineering. Individuals who decide to initially commit to an associate degree program will find opportunities in several engineering fields, and see that a broad basis of knowledge is important to finding success in the materials science field.

Generally, an associate degree program provides a student with a foundation of knowledge and basic understanding of the components of engineering technology. Earning an associate degree qualifies graduates for several entry-level jobs in the engineering industry. This is an appealing way for students to develop important education skills and on the job experience before committing to the pursuit of a more focused materials science bachelor's degree program.

Bachelor of Science in Materials Engineering/Materials Science
Earning a Bachelor of Science degree is the first step for many students pursuing materials science and engineering careers. B.S. materials science and engineering degree programs differ from program to program. Some materials engineering schools focus on a specific segment of materials science and teach students about the applications of particular materials.
Other B.S. materials engineering degree programs are more general in nature and provide students with a solid grasp of all of the segments of materials science. This is something potential students should consider when choosing a program. Additionally, both types of programs will also focus on general engineering concepts, mathematics, science, and technology.

B.S. programs are intense, rigorous, and challenging. In addition to developing academic skills, a priority is placed on courses that aid students in developing communication skills. The field of materials science is all about trial and error, and materials engineers and scientists should be able to effectively articulate ideas and proposals. Online materials engineering degree programs are well-rounded and offer students a quality education over the internet, making the pursuit of an engineering degree possible from any location with internet access.

Master of Science in Materials Science and Engineering
Because materials science is such a fast paced field, it is important for materials scientists and engineers to earn a B.S. degree, gain a couple years of work experience, then open the door to career advancement with more education. As a result, many materials scientists and engineers choose to pursue a Master of Science in Materials Science and Engineering degree.

Students pursuing this degree will study advanced technical skills, materials theory, and obtain a sophisticated understanding of everything involved in applying the characteristics of different materials towards improving human life. M.S. in Materials Science and Engineering degree programs allow students to specialize their talents and skills.

Developing expertise is necessary to increase job value and employability in advanced positions. Pursuing a Master of Science degree online is attractive to materials scientists and engineers because students can increase knowledge without taking time off of working. Also, combining school and work allows material scientists and engineers the availability of testing and applying new skills to work experiments.

Master of Science in Engineering Management
Many materials scientists and engineers will enter the work force and naturally gravitate towards management positions. Management positions in science and engineering are extremely important to the success of a project. The Master of Science Degree program in Engineering Management is something materials scientists and engineers should consider after a few years of work experience.

Most M.S.E.M. degree programs are designed for current scientists and engineering professionals who are seeking an initial management position. The advanced curriculum covered in such a program includes the coupling of engineering knowledge with leadership training and project management courses. Master of Science in Engineering Management degree programs aim to develop engineering professionals who are top notch managers who are able to lead and work with groups of engineers successfully. Online degree programs are an intelligent way to pursue and obtain an M.S.E.M. degree because such programs allow experienced engineers to advance their skills, training and education while still upholding the obligations of full-time employment.

What can you do with a University Degree in Materials Science Engineering?

Career options for aspiring materials science engineers Just as the potential for advancement in materials science is limitless, so to are the career opportunities for students who pursue materials science and engineering degree programs. Not only will students have the opportunity to work in every facet of engineering, but they will also find their knowledge and skills in demand in most other industries as well.

Materials Production Research. A materials scientist working in materials production research generally prefers researching and testing materials as opposed to focusing on practical applications of materials. Essentially, a materials scientist in this line of work continually thinks of new ways to test, manipulate, and control the behaviors and components of different materials.

Materials production research aims to create new materials. Materials scientists who perform this research generally work in laboratories funded by the government or private companies. This work involves a great deal of trial and error, so success in materials production research requires perseverance, dedication, and patience.

Metallurgical Engineer. A metallurgical engineer has a strong background in materials science and is interested in using information gathered from studying metals to design, improve, and alter products. This type of engineering professional is valuable to most industries; metallurgical engineers find employment in many fields, depending on an individual's interest and expertise. Often, metallurgical engineers work in teams, so communication skills and the ability to work with others is a key to enjoying and succeeding in this career.

An educational background and usually a Bachelor of Science degree in materials science and engineering are necessities for securing employment as a metallurgical engineering professional. Additionally, experienced metallurgical engineers generally find M.S. degrees necessary to qualify for more advanced, higher paying employment.

Materials Consultant. When a company or engineering firm is working on a new experiment, a materials scientist or a materials engineer may be consulted. Materials consultants are typically experts in one area of materials and familiar with past experiments and theories in the hiring firm's proposed project.

Materials consultants should be able to offer guidance; suggestions, feedback, and anything else that may assist a firm's project succeed. In addition to possessing sophisticated knowledge of a particular field, successful materials scientists are strong communicators. They are able to articulate ideas in a way that clients understand and find useful.

Manufacturing Engineer. A manufacturing engineer is involved with all components of the manufacturing process. His job is to develop methods and procedures that will improve, streamline, and modify such processes. This involves designing new machines and production methods, so a background in materials science is especially useful for innovative approaches to manufacturing. This field of engineering is a popular place of employment for materials scientists and engineers.

Manufacturing engineers constantly use new materials and combinations of existing materials to find practical applications for the manufacturing industry. Engineering professionals in this field have strong technical skills and educational background. Additionally, manufacturing engineers have the ability to focus on the larger picture of a project in its entirety as well as the individual tasks required to complete the project.

Most manufacturing engineers begin careers with a Bachelor of Science degree and many choose to return to school to earn an advanced degree. In addition to a strong command of manufacturing and engineering knowledge, communication skills are also a necessity for becoming a successful manufacturing engineer.
Patent Attorney. Many patent attorneys find an educational background in materials science and engineering helpful. Proper understanding of the advancement of technology and the ability to maintain a level of understanding that is on the cutting-edge of science and engineering is crucial for success a patent attorney. Patent attorneys assist in securing the patent rights to any materials, theories, methods, or ideas a scientist or engineering firm might develop.

Salary Expectations for Materials Engineers

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics concluded that the median yearly income of materials scientists and engineers was approximately $63,000 in 2002. Further, the middle 50% of materials science and engineering professionals earned between approximately $50,000 and $78,000. The National Association of Colleges and Employers reported that entry-level employees with a Bachelor Degree earned approximately $45,000 per year.

In the field of materials science and engineering, knowing more often means that a materials scientist or engineer is worth more to a company hoping to develop the next great world-changing technology. Thus, earning a Master of Science degree is a useful tool for making sure that an engineer has an updated and current knowledge of materials research, testing, and innovation. Online degree programs provide materials scientists a convenient way to continue working while expands the depth of knowledge.

Certification and Licensure

Professional Engineer (PE) Certification

In order to qualify for the Professional Engineers licensure, a candidate generally needs a Bachelor's Degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program, completion of a state level examination, and four years of work experience. More recent degree recipients have the option of dividing this licensure process into two segments.

The Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam is taken immediately after graduation and the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam is taken after four years of working in a chosen engineering field. Materials Scientists and Engineers generally need to take the metallurgical version of this exam.

Co-ops and Internships Unlock Opportunities

A great way for materials science and engineering students to get started on a successful career path while working on obtaining a degree is to participate in co-operative opportunities and internships. Internships are usually offered full-time during the summer months or part-time during the school year. Co-operatives are offered as a semester-long opportunity that allows students to work full-time while earning credits towards degree completion.

Major materials science companies and engineering firms are always looking for the next big development in technology. So, it is useful for companies to hire students who are fresh thinkers and educated in most recent technological development to come and work for them before a degree is earned. It is also a great opportunity for students to gain work experience and develop industry or field interests at an early point their careers.

Getting an internship or co-op can be extremely competitive, so students hoping to pursue these types of experiences should earn high GPAs, participate in industry related student organizations, and stay in the loop about potential internship placement opportunities.