Materials Engineering; Job Description, Salaries, Working Fields

Materials Engineering; Job Description, Salaries, Working Fields

Materials engineers are working in a laboratory.
Image Source: Flickr.

Materials science and engineering is a very important engineering field that people prefer generally around the world. So, it is not one of the 4 main engineering branches and materials engineering is part of chemical engineering. Also, ,in this article, you can find detailed information about materials engineering and materials science. The topics about materials engineering; 

  • What are materials science and engineering? 
  • What do materials engineers do?
  • A short history of this engineering branch.
  • What are the working fields of this engineering? 
  • Which kinds of companies that materials engineers work for? 
  • Materials science and engineering education.
  • Average salaries of them in different countries. 

Check: Best Laptops for Engineers!

What is Materials Science and Engineering?

Firstly, materials science is a scientific branch that people making and publishingtechnological innovations about materials. We can see lots of innovations in materials; some of them lightweight, some of them mechanically very strong, some of them invisible, etc. And also, all of these advancements and improvements are made in the innovations in material science. 

Materials engineering is a practical application of materials science to the system that we use in daily life and daily basis. Yes, maybe they develop mechanically very strong materials which are also very lightweight. But is it applicable for daily use in different applications? Can this material apply to automotive systems to make automotive products lighter but more durable? So these are the questions that they are dealing with. 

The most important problem in materials engineering is material costs. The developed material can be very strong and lightweight. But if we apply this material to serial production products such as automotive products, what happens to the prices of the automotive products? Can these new automotive products compete with the market competitors? Maybe automobiles will be more efficient in fuel consumption. But will the price of the automobile be compensated for this lower fuel consumption? These are real problems that they are dealing with. 

Furthermore, they have updated themselves with the latest developments in materials science. And they deal with the practical applications of these developments. 

What Materials Engineers Do?

So, as we stated above, materials engineers are dealing with the application of brand-new material technologies into casual products. Or if we think about the development of a new product, selection of the optimal material around the thousands of types of materials is the duty of them. Also, the selected material must be cost-competitive and must satisfy the technical requirements of that product. And then, there are lots of kinds of materials and the selection of proper materials is not an easy business. 

Where Materials Engineering is Derived?

There are 4 main engineering branches; mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, civil engineering, and electrical engineering. And also, according to some sources, materials engineering is a sub-discipline of mechanical engineering and according to other sources, it is a sub-discipline of chemical engineering. 

But we can think the this engineering as a combination of chemical engineering and mechanical engineering. Because, they are using the fundamentals of chemical engineering and mechanical engineering to understand the nature of the materials. So, a materials engineer must understand the mechanics of materials and interpret these mechanics of materials with the chemistry of materials. This is a very important ability that they are expecting from materials engineers. 

The History of Materials Science

Metals were the most important materials for the developing technology in starting eras of industrial revolutions. And also, nearly all the material development studies are made on metals starting from the early age of 18. century. Because of this, the material development studies are called metallurgy. Up to around the 1960s, institutions that include material development facilities are called metallurgy faculties. 

After the 1960s and space race era, other types of advanced materials such as composites, and plastics are among the common material types. Addition of these materials in materials science studies, the metallurgy facilities are turned into materials facilities. And people that are working in these facilities as engineers are materials engineers. 

Working Fields of Materials Engineering

Also, the working fields of materials engineers are the same as the development and classification of manufacturing materials. In the most general classification, manufacturing materials are classified into metals, ceramics, polymers, and composites.

Metals and Metallurgy

Traditional metallurgy vs new age of metallurgy.
Image Source: Wikimedia.com.

Metals and metallurgy is the most classical field that which most they are working. In the metal industry, materials engineers are working in the development and manufacturing of different metal alloys such as steel production, pig iron production from iron ores, development of nonferrous metal alloys, and production of alloys in metal manufacturing sites, erection of metal production processes, etc. So, the metal industry is a very big and wide industry that materials engineers can take a part in. 

Casting is one of the biggest fields in the metal industry. Nearly all the metal alloys are castable to produce different parts. So, the casting industry is one of the biggest industries that they are taking part in.

Ceramics and Ceramic Industry

In the ceramics industry, the biggest market is glass production. Glasswares are everywhere and the development of glassware and glass production lines is the responsibility of the materials engineer. We use glasses in different kinds of applications both in high technology and daily uses. And also, glass production is a very big sector in the manufacturing industry in which these engineers are extensively hired. 

They use ceramics generally in high-temperature applications because of their refractory feature. Because of it, the development of refractory equipment from ceramic materials is a very important business. They are working in these kinds of sectors. 

Polymer Industry

Furthermore, the polymer industry may be the biggest material sector if we compare with others. Polymer production in the world is very big and they are using polymers in lots of engineering and high technology applications from plastic bottles to 3D printer materials. Moreover, there is a wide variety of polymer they are taking part in the development of these materials. 

Bioplastics are very important topic in materials engineering.
Biodegradable plastics is a very important working area for materials engineers(Image Source: Flickr).

In the polymer industry, thermoplastic polymers have the biggest market share. In the production of thermoplastic polymers, they are hiring materials engineers extensively. Also in the production of thermosets, materials engineers have a very important role. 

Composite Production

Also, composite materials are one of the newest fields of materials science and lots of scientific research and sources are allocated to the development of applications of composite materials. 

These materials are materials in which we combine the superior properties of different material types. 

Also, they are beginning to use composite materials in different kinds of applications such as automotive applications and aerospace applications. They are developing and using lots of kinds of lightweight but durable composite materials. 

In the composite sector, they are hiring lots of engineers. In developed countries, there is a very big demand for composite engineers are engineers who have improved themselves in composite materials. 

Which Kinds of Companies that Materials Engineers Work in?

The production and development market of different materials is a very big sector and lots of materials scientists and these engineers are working in the companies that deal with the engineering materials. These are the general types of sectors and companies where materials engineers are hired; 

Metal Production Facilities

Metal production from natural sources is a very big sector to produce the required metal and metal alloys for the manufacturing market. In the development and operation of the metal production processes, optimizing these processes is among the responsibilities of them. For example, in steel production facilities in Europe especially in Germany, lots of materials engineers are hired. 

Metal Casting Companies

Metal casting is a very common manufacturing application of different shapes from metal and metal alloys. The metal casting processes require engineers who operate and develop them. They are generally hired for this purpose in metal casting companies. 

R&D Departments of Companies

If a technology company produces a physical thing to sell to the market, materials are one of the most important problems to be dealt with in the research and development of that product. The selection of a proper material or development of new material for the product to be sold in the market is of the most important responsibilities of a materials engineer. 

Automotive Industry

Use of the brand-new material technologies in the automotive industry is a new concept for the biggest automotive producers in the world. For example, use of the composite materials in car bodies is a common practice in the automotive industry. They are hired by the automotive industry to apply the brand-new material developments. 

Aerospace Industry

Lightweight and durable applications are the main task of aerospace applications. So, there is a very strict material study to apply in aerospace applications. They are generally hired in aerospace to develop new materials and apply these materials to aerospace products. In general, composites are used in aerospace applications and developments. 

Polymer Production Facilities

In the plastic production facilities, materials engineers take part in important duties such as the operation of the polymer production processes, improvement of the polymer production processes, and improvement of the quality of the produced polymer materials. The produced polymer materials are procured from other factories in shaped forms. So, materials engineers can take part in the polymer shaping processes such as plastic injection. Lots of kinds of plastic parts are produced with plastic injection processes. 

Glass Industry

Automobile glasses, window glasses, optical glasses, household glasses, special refractory glasses… Glass sector is very big. The development of new glass materials, development of glass production processes, and operation of the glass production processes are the main responsibilities of materials engineers hired in the glass industry. 

Composite Industry

Composites are very important in materials engineering.
Laminate composite specimen(Image Source: Wikimedia).

There are lots of companies that are producing the main materials required for composite materials and composite parts. For example, the production of fiberglass materials is a very common sector, and they are selling fiberglass materials generally to aerospace and automotive industries. The development and production of fiberglass materials and other composite materials is a very good area that a they can take apart. 

As you understand that they are working in the primary industries where the primary equipment and materials they are supplying to other secondary industries.

How is the Materials Engineering Education?

There are lots of institutions that are giving materials science and this engineering education in engineering faculties. This means that they are accepting and applying this engineering branch as a separate engineering field. 

Optional Preparation Class

Some education institutions give a preparation class which is generally optional for students to learn different useful languages before starting the this engineering branch’s education. 

The First Year of Materials Engineering Education

In the first year of materials engineering education, the essential chemistry and physics lessons start. Maybe the computer-aided engineering graphics are the additional lessons in the first semester of the first year. In the second semester of the second year of the education, you will take more advanced topics of fundamental physics and chemistry lessons. Also, fundamentals of mathematics and calculus lessons start in the first year. Maybe a little introduction to engineering materials made. 

The Second Year of Materials Engineering Education

In the second year of the education, you will take some advanced lessons about calculus and mathematics such as differential equations. You will take thermodynamics of materials, materials science 101, and other introductory important lessons about materials and engineering. 

In the second semester of the second year, you will probably take statics and strength of materials lessons to gain knowledge in classical mechanics. Materials laboratory and other computational engineering lessons that you may take in the second semester. Fundamentals of organic chemistry are among the lessons that you will take in the second year of education. You will take advanced lessons in thermodynamics and materials science as a continuation of the first semester. 

The Third Year of Materials Engineering Education

In the third year of education, you will take the most important lessons about this engineering and materials science. With these lessons, you will gain the required abilities and skills in this engineering branch. Around these fundamental engineering lessons, phase equilibria, mechanical behavior of materials, mass transport, metallic materials, and electrical and optical behaviors of materials are the main subjects. 

In the second semester of the education, principles of solidification, physical foundations o materials, and structure and characterization of materials are the main lessons. 

Also, they implement the summer practice of engineering in this year of education. You complete the summer practice in professional engineering companies and it will be very good for a materials engineer candidate to complete the summer practice in the related companies that you want to work with. 

Some schools arrange the companies for summer practice and in some schools, you need to find the summer practice by yourself. 

The Fourth Year

In the fourth year of education, you will take optional lessons about materials engineering. And you will have a graduation final thesis. This thesis should be related to the topics that you are interested in the materials science. Also, you need to select the optional lessons in this engineering related to your final thesis. It will be also better to make the final thesis with the cooperation of professional companies with the real problems of the sector. 

In general, the examination system in materials engineering schools is the same as in other engineering faculties. There are visa exams and final exams for each lesson that you will take in separate semesters. Also, there can be projects in each lesson that you need to complete with the knowledge that you bring from the classes. 

The Most Paying Countries to Materials Engineers

Metal casting.

Like the other engineering branches, this is among the most paid professions group. Because the responsibilities of them in engineering and manufacturing companies are very high. Because of this, materials engineers are generally earning well in each country. But in some countries, materials engineers are earning much more money than the other countries. 

Average Salaries of Materials Engineers in the US

The US is one of the best-paying countries for them and there are lots of job opportunities in the US for materials engineers. There are lots of global engineering companies in the US which are extensively hiring them and the average salary of them in the US is around $80.000 per year. 

These salaries are general changes with the increasing experience of materials engineers. Graduate-level engineers are starting at $50.000-60.000 in the US. Salaries can increase up to $120.000-130.000 per year with the increasing experience. 

Average Salaries in Germany

Germany is one of the biggest industry countries and graduate engineers are preferring to work in German engineering companies. There are very big engineering companies in Germany where hiring them.

The average salary of materials engineers in Germany is around 4000 EUR per month. This salary may increase with the increasing experience up to 6000 EUR per month. In general, graduate students of this engineering start with salaries of around 2000 EUR in Germany. 

Canada is Among the Top Paying Country to Materials Engineers

Canada is a very good place to be a metallurgist.

Canada is another top-paying country for materials engineers and Canada has a very big demand for engineers from around the world. The average salary of them in Canada is around $75.000 per year. Also with the increasing experience, the average salary increases up to $150.000 per year. 

The companies that hire them in Canada; are RAE Engineering and Inspection, TechInsights, University of British Columbia, Electrical Contacts LTD., and more. 

Conclusion

As you understand, this is a very broad field of engineering and lots of sub-field in materials engineering that students or graduates can improve themselves. Always companies need them as personnel. 

They play an important role in the development of technology and the advancement of science in the world. So, this is a very advantageous and bright field of engineering. 

We tried the most general information about materials engineering from different viewpoints. 

If you are one of them or a student, your comments, experiences, and information about your field will be very precious for visitors and us. 

So, do not forget to leave your comments and questions below about materials science and engineering! 

Your precious feedbacks are very important to us!

FAQs About Materials Engineering

Is materials engineering a good career?

Sure. Because of the various reasons that we mention above, it has a very bright future and it is very good to study and improve yourself in this area. 

How do I become a materials engineer?

The first step to being a one of them is graduating from accredited materials engineering faculties. And you need to improve yourself in specific topics of materials engineering. 

Is materials engineering education tough?

It is tough. Like the other engineering subjects and education, the subjects of this engineering are tough to overcome. You need to have special abilities and a special desire to be one of them to overcome the this education. 

Can a mechanical engineer work as a materials engineer?

Materials are a very important part of this area. Mechanical engineering is a general engineering subject that has various sub-disciplines and materials science is one of them. You can improve yourself in materials to be a specialist in materials as a mechanical engineer. 

What is the difference between materials science and materials engineering?

Materials science deals with the development of new materials, how materials behave in nature, and the development of the properties of materials. They are dealing with the application of material science knowledge to create useful things for the benefit of humanity.

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