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:
Evaluate materials and develop machinery and processes to manufacture materials for use in products that must meet specialized design and performance specifications. Develop new uses for known materials. Includes those engineers working with composite materials or specializing in one type of material, such as graphite, metal and metal alloys, ceramics and glass, plastics and polymers, and naturally occurring materials. Includes metallurgists and metallurgical engineers, ceramic engineers, and welding engineers.
On the job, you would:
Review new product plans and make recommendations for material selection, based on design objectives such as strength, weight, heat resistance, electrical conductivity, and cost.
Supervise the work of technologists, technicians, and other engineers and scientists.
Analyze product failure data and laboratory test results to determine causes of problems and develop solutions.
Engineering and Technology
product and service development
computers and electronics
Math and Science
arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, or statistics
Manufactured or Agricultural Goods
manufacture and distribution of products
Arts and Humanities
reading work related information
thinking about the pros and cons of different ways to solve a problem
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
listen and understand what people say
read and understand what is written
Ideas and Logic
make general rules or come up with answers from lots of detailed information
notice when problems happen
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
The MathWorks MATLAB
Development environment software
Microsoft Visual Basic
National Instruments LabVIEW
Computer aided design CAD software
Dassault Systemes CATIA
bachelor's degree or master's degree usually needed
New job opportunities are less likely in the future.