Materials engineering students learn how to take raw materials and turn
them into useful items. Training for this field is widely available.
"Materials engineering deals with the science and technology of converting
raw materials, including metals, ceramics, polymers and composites," says
Mary Wells. She is a professor of metals and materials engineering.
"In other words, they have a hand in just about every material used by
You will want to make certain you find a good materials engineering
program. M. Brian Ives is chair of a materials science and engineering
department. He says you should be looking for a program that will include
classes on subjects like:
- Thermodynamics (the relationship between heat and other forms of energy)
- Crystallography (studying the structure and form of crystals)
- Mass transport (diffusion)
- Phase transformations
- Mechanical properties
- Electronic properties
- Design projects
Most materials engineering programs are four-year bachelor's degree
programs. However, if students incorporate a co-op component into their
studies, it can take five years to complete the degree.
Co-op work terms offer the opportunity to work for a semester in
the industry. You'll get academic credit and some money for your work.
Look for programs accredited by the Accreditation Board of Engineering
and Technology (ABET). Accreditation means a program meets the requirements
of the profession for quality education.
Students can expect to spend long hours studying, says Ives. "I
guess six to eight hours a day outside the classroom and lab would not be
a bad estimate. Altogether, I bet 100-hour weeks are not uncommon!"
Helpful skills include creative and critical thinking, quantitative and
analytical reasoning and math and communication skills. "A person who has
an innate curiosity about nature and the physical sciences and about chemical
and physical processes and systems would be suited to work in this field,"
Take math, physics, chemistry, biology, English and computer programming
while in high school.
Extracurricular activities can also play an important role. Participate
in school and community design competitions.
In the U.S., students must graduate from an accredited engineering program,
complete four years of practical work experience under the supervision of
a professional engineer and pass a state exam before they can be registered
as a certified professional engineer.
Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Materials
Engineering -- Your Future
A great overview of all the different disciplines
The Materials Information Society
Check out this big list of resources