Studies & Degrees in Materials Engineering
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A materials engineer is an expert in the properties, processing and development of various materials for production industries. They incorporate the use of technological advancements in order to explore, improve and create materials with specific beneficial properties.
Many colleges, universities and technical institutions will offer a major in materials engineering (sometimes offered as materials science). Degrees earned in this field include an associate, bachelor, master or PhD, depending on the length of study (3-10 years). Many of these studies end with an internship or other placement in a related engineering field.
Online post-secondary programs are also available, though these may only offer an associate’s degree, and do not include internship or work placements.
Some apprenticeships in materials engineering are available in specific areas, such as metal processing or mechanics. It is difficult to find an apprenticeship in chemical, computer or medical areas of material engineering without having some post-secondary education.
Skills, Qualifications, and Prerequisites for Studies in Materials Engineering
Universities, colleges and technical institutions will require interested candidates to pass certain admission requirements – usually the successful acquisition of a secondary school completion certificate, or a certain score on an aptitude test and/or entrance exam. A bachelor’s degree is required to pursue graduate studies.
Apprenticeships do not always require any previous education or experience, though some apprenticeships in certain focus areas will require some post-secondary education or a degree. Online programs are accessible to most individuals regardless of training or education.
Material engineering candidates should be able to work effectively, both on research teams and independently. They should pay close attention to detail and possess the ideal qualities of perseverance, enthusiasm and creativity (these qualities make material experimentation and development more effective and engaging for the individual). An aptitude towards the sciences and maths is essential to success.
Other beneficial qualities for a materials engineering candidate include:
- Fluency in technology and technological systems.
- Ability to work well with hands.
- Communication skills.
Skills and Qualifications Acquired from Studies in Materials Engineering
Materials engineering is a broad study of many materials and many engineering practices. Students, therefore, have the option of specializing in a certain field of materials, such as electronics, polymers or metals. A basic course of study in material engineering, however, will teach essential skills in the following areas:
- Basic chemistry, mathematics and physics.
- Thermodynamics and mechanics.
- Structure and properties of matter.
- Characteristics and structure of polymers.
- Characteristics and structure of metals.
- Characteristics and structure or ceramics, catalysts, electronics, etc.
- Problem-solving skills and techniques.
- Machine and system designs.
- Conceptual material, machine and system design.
- Metallurgy, electronics and other assembly techniques.
- Management and leadership techniques.
- Data analysis, record-keeping and communication skills.
Careers for Studies in Materials Engineering
Technological industries employ a large number of material engineers in order to keep up with rapidly advancing technology. Industries specializing in nanotechnology, electronics, navigation, transportation (auto, air, etc.), chemical, nuclear and raw material processing employ materials engineers for research, development, management and testing of new or improved products. Graduates from these studies can also work in the military or related government branches, developing defense or intelligence systems and products. Medical research labs and facilities also employ materials engineers, in order to produce artificial medical technology, organs and other products.