Day in the Life
From cellular phones to artificial hip joints to lightweight bicycles,
materials engineers work to develop products that improve lives. Materials
engineers bring advances in the auto, aerospace, construction,
manufacturing, electronics, computer, and telecommunications industries by
developing new or improved metals, plastics, ceramics, semiconductors and
composites. They work to increase the strength of steel, toughen ceramics,
lower the cost of composites and make faster computer circuits. Materials
are involved in almost every engineering product, and materials engineers
are needed to select the best material, improve its properties, lower its
processing cost and increase its durability.
There can be many
tracks within a career. A materials engineer might begin in a technical
area such as manufacturing or research and development, and then move into
a management, sales, marketing, or a consulting role, depending on
interest and ability.
a manufacturing operation most tasks are conducted by cross-functional
teams of people. Materials engineers are generally part of a support group
integral to these teams for various functions -- from design concept
through manufacturing processes to final product evaluations.
addition to the technical and problem-solving skills requisite for a
career in the field, the so-called `soft skills' will play a significant
role in your success. Leadership abilities, teamwork, communication
skills, flexibility, goal orientation, as well as the capacity for
organization, all figure prominently in a career.
Because of their
training and skills, materials engineers make strong candidates for jobs
not traditionally associated with engineering: sales, training, law,
medicine, insurance, real estate, publishing, finance, technical service,
Opportunities exist for
a wide range of people with a spectrum of backgrounds. A recent survey
shows a changing distribution of people in the field over the past twenty
years. Much of this change was the result of people becoming aware of the
opportunities in the field.
Each work environment is unique. Factors like a company's size may impact
your career. Over half of the people polled in a recent survey of the
field work in large companies (more than 1000 people). However, a growing
number of materials engineers are finding positions in small companies.
Some resources in this section are provided by The Minerals, Metals &
and the US Department
of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.