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Materials Science Engineering Degree

If materials science and engineering sounds like something you would be interested in pursuing, read on to learn more.

What is the field of materials science and engineering?

Materials science and engineering is a field which involves the study of a variety of substances at the molecular and atomic levels. These studies are carried out in order to determine how different substances will interact with each other. This knowledge is absolutely essential when developing new products and testing the quality of manufactured goods.

Some of the things materials engineers do include:

  • Study and analyze substances in order to learn more about their composition and the concentration of elements present
  • Organize and carry out research projects to test substance interactions and develop new products
  • Take part in laboratory procedures involving compounds, reagents, and solutions
  • Write about their methods and findings in technical reports which can be used by engineers, scientists, and other similar professionals
  • Educate technicians about the physical properties of materials and the best way to test and analyze their components
  • Ensure that safety and quality standards are met by conducting tests on substances
  • Teach scientists and technicians how to carry out testing procedures and chemical processing

Professionals in this field work in either basic or applied research. In the former, they study the properties, composition, and structure of various substances. They then proceed to determine how different substances interact. In the latter, they carry out studies on products and look for ways to improve them or create new ones.

Materials science and engineering is ultimately concerned with understanding the properties of materials in order to develop new products and enhance products which already exist. Its applications range from dealing with superconducting materials to improving the quality of metallic alloys and ceramics.

How to pursue a career in materials science and engineering

If you want to pursue a career in materials science and engineering, you will need to have advanced educational qualifications. Most employers require applicants to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in the field. However, graduate studies are fast becoming a pre-requisite for numerous positions.

In general, the path that you need to take if you want to go into materials science and engineering is as follows: 

Steps to going into materials science and engineering:

1. Enroll in a bachelor’s degree program in engineering with a concentration in materials science

2. Enroll in a graduate degree program in engineering with a concentration in materials science

3. Get relevant training and experience in the field of materials science and engineering

4. Get your Professional Engineer (PE) license if you intend to work in high level positions in this field

Bachelor’s degree in materials science and engineering

At the undergraduate degree level, you have a few options in terms of what degree to enroll in. For instance, you can pursue a degree in chemistry, physics or engineering with a concentration in materials science. While there are a few dedicated programs in materials science, they are not very common.

There are options to take materials science as a specialization in some chemistry and engineering programs.

Degree

Duration

Some of the courses offered

Bachelor’s degree in engineering with a concentration in materials science OR

chemistry with a concentration in materials science

4 years

  • Mathematics
  • Organic chemistry
  • Inorganic chemistry
  • Physical chemistry
  • Analytical chemistry
  • Biological sciences
  • Physics
  • Computer science
  • Materials for the Energy Solution
  • Nanomaterials
  • Electronic and Photonic Materials

Master’s degree in materials science and engineering

Many advanced positions in this field require candidates to have a master’s degree or a Ph.D. in materials science and engineering. In addition, candidates are required to have a significant amount of work experience. At the graduate degree level, you can choose to specialize in a sub-field depending upon your specific career aspirations.

You will also take part in extensive lab work and internships at this stage. These are essential for preparing you to take on work after graduation.

Degree

Duration

Some of the courses offered

Master’s degree in engineering with a concentration in

materials science

2 years

  • Atomic Arrangements in Solids
  • Rate Processes in Materials
  • Analytical and Statistical Thermodynamics of Materials
  • Physics of Solids
  • Computational Materials Science
  • Energy Materials
  • Conducting Polymers
  • Advanced Physics of Materials

Career prospects and salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides career data for chemists and materials scientists, which can be useful for individuals seeking to pursue a career in materials science and engineering. According to data from BLS, as of May 2015, the annual median salary earned by these professionals was $72,610, which translates to about $34.91 per hour. As of 2014, there were 98,400 jobs available in the field. In terms of employment growth and job outlook, this profession is expected to see a 3% growth rate, which is slower than the average growth rate for most professions at 7%. This data is for the time period 2014 to 2024 in which there are expected to be 2,600 new jobs.

BLS also provides that there are five industries in which materials scientists most often seek employment in. These include:

Industry

Annual Median Wage (May 2015)

Computer and electronic product manufacturing

$107,960

Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences

$94,660

 

Basic chemical manufacturing

$93,040

 

Architectural, engineering, and related services

$80,730

 

Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private

$51,020

 

These professionals work full-time jobs with regular hours.

              

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