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What is Materials Engineering?
Materials Engineering or Materials Science is a field of study in engineering coupled with physics and chemistry focused on the design and discovery of new materials. Materials Engineering emphasize how a material affects its structure and the resulting material’s durability, properties, and performance under various conditions.
The study of Materials Engineering is used heavily to advance the body of knowledge within the following disciplines: metallurgy, nanotechnology, biomaterials, forensic engineering, failure analysis, superconducting materials, spintronics, metamaterials, computational science, molecular dynamics, density function theory, glassblowing, electron microscopy, neutron diffraction, composite materials, polymer science, and digital circuitry.
Innovation & Materials Engineering
Investing time to understand the inherent behavior of materials has led to countless breakthroughs and innovations. Early inventions include the creation of stone tools that invariably lead to the creation of fire. Fast forward to the modern era and we see the similar type of innovations in silicon chips and transistors.
Materials engineering focuses on the structure, properties, synthesis, processing, performance and properties of materials. These materials can be viewed and innovated from a variety of engineering disciplines that can include electrical, magnetic, mechanical, optical, and quantum mechanical.
These innovations directly impact society and commerce in the following industries: medicine, electronics, manufacturing, communications, transportation, energy, recreation, and environmental.
Top Materials Engineering Degrees
Degree programs in Materials Engineering (ME) are offered from several top ranked colleges at a variety of degree levels. Students seeking a future in ME will find a wide number of schools and degrees to consider. Below we have aggregated the most popular degree programs ranging from undergraduate to graduate programs. To help you find the best program for you, simply connect to colleges that you are interested below to obtain admissions and program information from each school.
Materials Engineering Bachelor Degrees
Online bachelor degree programs in materials engineering can be found at a number of accredited colleges and universities across the country. Bachelor degrees in the field of study can be conferred as a Bachelor of Science (BS) or Bachelors of Science in Materials Science Engineering (BS MSE).
Most BS MSE degrees are designed to be four-year degree programs that blend general education courses with core curriculum. Liberal arts classes you can expect to take include communications, English composition, psychology, philosophy, and economics.
Core classes in the ME program will vary by school but will typically contain a core set of classes. The common set of classes you will see in an ME program include the following:
- Basics of Materials Property
- Structure and Properties of Materials
- Physical Properties in Engineering Systems
- Thermodynamics of Materials
- Processing and Properties of Materials
- Atomistic Material Science
- Electrical Properties of Materials
- Analytic Geometry
- Multivariate Calculus
- Optical Properties of Materials
- Linear Algebra
- Modern Mechanics
- Magnetic Properties of Materials
- Fundamentals of Engineering
- Engineering Mathematics
- Thermal Physics
Materials Engineering Master Degrees
Earning a master’s degree in materials engineering will take 2-3 years of full-time matriculation. Qualified students will need to meet all lower level requirements as set forth by the college or university. Many colleges have created a set of curricula that offers a general degree or specialized degree in ceramics, polymers, electronic materials, metallurgy, biomaterials, and/or structural materials.
Universities may provide students the option of a thesis or non-thesis degree track. The primary difference between the two program is the time spent preparing a thesis versus additional approved course work in ME. Both may be viable tracks to consider for qualifying students. A master’s degree in materials engineering prepares students for the next step in their academic career to earn a PhD or to launch a career in the private or public sector.
Materials Engineering PhD Degrees
Doctorate degrees in materials engineering are known as terminal degrees. By definition, a terminal degree is one that does not have any degrees beyond itself and is essentially the last step that can be taken in the field of study. Many schools provide students with the opportunity to create a set of coursework that most interests them. Areas of study in ME may include: complex fluids, metals, semiconductors, polymers, optical, structural, inorganic hybrids, or organic optoelectronics. The culmination of the program will likely include a board-approved dissertation. Your dissertation is designed to extend the body of knowledge in ME in a substantive manner.
Materials Engineering Requirements
In terms of educational requirements, Materials Engineering degree holders will have typically studied the following courses while in college:
- English Language
- Business Management
- Mechanical Engineering
- Chemical Engineering
- Supply Chain Management
Employment in Materials Engineering
Materials engineering majors will possess a unique set of problem solving skills after completing their degrees. Some may jump directly into employment in the field, while others may choose to research other careers. Associated careers of interest may include the following types of career paths: biomedical engineer, systems engineer, operation design, chemist, mechanical engineer, physicist, manufacturing engineer, sales engineer, management science, production engineer, astronomer, ergonomics, management engineer, aerospace engineer, and lean manufacturing specialist.
Materials Engineering Careers
Career opportunities within the materials engineering and materials science field are very robust. National surveys indicate graduates are heavily recruited by large and small corporations for a variety of jobs throughout the United States. Jobs you may qualify for include the following areas of commerce such as: research and development, manufacturing, marketing, materials design, to name a few. Graduates will typically find employment in the following sectors:
- Power Generation
- Government Labs
- Colleges & Universities
Materials Engineer Career Outlook
The career outlook for materials engineers is bright. In fact, the BLS and DOL forecast a growth rate hovering around the median average for all jobs in the country. To illustrate, the industry is vaulting similar careers like industrial machinery mechanic and sales engineer, 16% and 7% respectively.
The median annual income for a materials engineer is $94,610 a year. This salary represents more than double the national average income with a solid employment outlook. In a recent employment survey, approximately 51% of materials engineers had a bachelor's degree with 39% holding a master's or PhD.
Resources for Materials Engineers
The ASM is an international association dedicated to the growth of materials engineers by providing resources and professional tools to extend the learning opportunities and help to advance society. Membership benefits may be worth considering for those serious about a career in this field of study.