What Materials Engineers Do
Materials engineers develop, process, and test materials used to create a wide range of products.
Materials engineers generally work in offices where they have access to computers and design equipment. Others work in factories or research and development laboratories. Materials engineers typically work full time and may work overtime hours when necessary.
How to Become a Materials Engineer
Materials engineers must have a bachelor’s degree in materials science and engineering or in a related engineering field. Completing internships and cooperative engineering programs while in school can be helpful in getting hired as a materials engineer.
The median annual wage for materials engineers was $93,360 in May 2019.
Employment of materials engineers is projected to grow 2 percent from 2019 to 2029, slower than the average for all occupations. About half of all materials engineers work in manufacturing industries, including many that are expected to have slow growth or declines in employment.
Materials engineers develop, process, and test materials used to create a range of products, from computer chips and aircraft wings to golf clubs and biomedical devices. They study the properties and structures of metals, ceramics, plastics, composites, nanomaterials (extremely small substances), and other substances in order to create new materials that meet certain mechanical, electrical, and chemical requirements. They also help select materials for specific products and develop new ways to use existing materials.
Materials engineers typically do the following:
- Plan and evaluate new projects, consulting with other engineers and managers as necessary
- Prepare proposals and budgets, analyze labor costs, write reports, and perform other managerial tasks
- Supervise the work of technologists, technicians, and other engineers and scientists
- Design and direct the testing of processing procedures
- Monitor how materials perform and evaluate how they deteriorate
- Determine causes of product failure and develop ways of overcoming such failure
- Evaluate technical specifications and economic factors relating to the design objectives of processes or products
- Evaluate the impact of materials processing on the environment
Materials engineers create and study materials at the atomic level. They use computers to understand and model the characteristics of materials and their components. They solve problems in several different engineering fields, such as mechanical, chemical, electrical, civil, nuclear, and aerospace.
Materials engineers may specialize in understanding specific types of materials. The following are examples of types of materials engineers:
Ceramic engineers develop ceramic materials and the processes for making them into useful products, from high-temperature rocket nozzles to glass for LCD flat-panel displays.
Composites engineers develop materials with special, engineered properties for applications in aircraft, automobiles, and related products.
Metallurgical engineers specialize in metals, such as steel and aluminum, usually in alloyed form with additions of other elements to provide specific properties.
Plastics engineers develop and test new plastics, known as polymers, for new applications.
Semiconductor processing engineers apply materials science and engineering principles to develop new microelectronic materials for computing, sensing, and related applications.
Materials engineers held about 27,500 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of materials engineers were as follows:
|Transportation equipment manufacturing||15%|
|Primary metal manufacturing||9|
|Computer and electronic product manufacturing||8|
|Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences||7|
Materials engineers often work in offices where they have access to computers and design equipment. Others work in factories or research and development laboratories. Materials engineers may work in teams with scientists and engineers from other backgrounds.
Materials engineers generally work full time. Some materials engineers work more than 40 hours per week.
This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of materials engineers.
For more information about materials engineering career resources, visit
For information about general engineering career resources, visit
For more information about licensure as a professional engineer, visit
For more information about certification, visit
For more information about accredited engineering programs, visit
For more information about engineering summer camps, visit
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Materials Engineers,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/materials-engineers.htm (visited ).