Whether developing a new type of shatterproof glass for phone screens, or a heat-resistant compound to support Mars mission equipment, materials engineers and materials scientists have their fingerprints all over innovations in industry. While both develop new products and improve existing ones, materials scientists focus on the structure and properties of materials, while materials engineers apply that knowledge to develop products. Both usually specialize in a principal material, such as ceramics, glass, metal, or semiconductors. Materials scientists improve materials such as metallic alloys or superconducting materials, so that products can have features and functions that were not possible previously. They also develop new materials. Materials scientists conduct experiments and analyze their results. Materials engineers select materials for specific products and develop new ways to use existing materials, continuously designing improvements. They prepare proposals and budgets, analyze labor costs, and may supervise technologists and technicians. These professionals team up with other specialists, and generally work in offices, manufacturing facilities, or research and development labs. A bachelor’s degree in materials science, engineering or a related field… is needed for entry-level jobs. Materials scientists may also major in chemistry or physics, and may need a master’s degree or a Ph.D. and significant work experience to qualify for some jobs. A graduate degree allows an engineer to work as a college-level teacher or to do research and development.
What they do:
Research and study the structures and chemical properties of various natural and synthetic or composite materials, including metals, alloys, rubber, ceramics, semiconductors, polymers, and glass. Determine ways to strengthen or combine materials or develop new materials with new or specific properties for use in a variety of products and applications. Includes glass scientists, ceramic scientists, metallurgical scientists, and polymer scientists.
On the job, you would:
Conduct research on the structures and properties of materials, such as metals, alloys, polymers, and ceramics, to obtain information that could be used to develop new products or enhance existing ones.
Prepare reports, manuscripts, proposals, and technical manuals for use by other scientists and requestors, such as sponsors and customers.
Perform experiments and computer modeling to study the nature, structure, and physical and chemical properties of metals and their alloys, and their responses to applied forces.
Math and Science
Engineering and Technology
product and service development
computers and electronics
Arts and Humanities
Manufactured or Agricultural Goods
manufacture and distribution of products
using scientific rules and strategies to solve problems
reading work related information
noticing a problem and figuring out the best way to solve it
People and Technology Systems
thinking about the pros and cons of different options and picking the best one
figuring out how a system should work and how changes in the future will affect it
communicate by speaking
read and understand what is written
Ideas and Logic
notice when problems happen
use rules to solve problems
choose the right type of math to solve a problem
add, subtract, multiply, or divide
People interested in this work like activities that include ideas, thinking, and figuring things out.
They do well at jobs that need:
Attention to Detail
You might use software like this on the job:
Analytical or scientific software
Bruker AXS LEPTOS
IBM SPSS Statistics
Electronic mail software
bachelor's degree or doctoral degree usually needed
New job opportunities are likely in the future.
Green jobs will increase the demand for this type of work.