Materials Engineering Careers

Read on to learn about typical courses, resources, and careers in this field.

Staff Writer

2022-11-1415 min read

Materials engineers work across multiple industries and create innovative solutions to engineering problems. They work with metals, glass, plastics, and ceramic materials to create various products, from golf clubs to aircraft wings.

Colleges and institutions offering this engineering program equip you with the technical knowledge and necessary skills to manipulate materials and create new products.

You can begin your journey on this lucrative career path with this resource, exploring everything about materials engineers, from degree options to salary and job outlook.

Why Choose Materials Engineering?

Material engineering is an interdisciplinary field that teaches physics, mathematics, chemistry, biology, and strong research skills to improve production processes.

Materials engineers typically drive innovation in most research and manufacturing industries. They solve problems and apply their in-depth material knowledge to multiple engineering fields.

Studying this course also improves career options and job prospects since every company wants to make its products stronger, more functional, and sustainable.

How to Start your Materials Engineering Journey

Most ABET-accredited institutions offer materials and engineering programs for undergraduate and postgraduate students. You need a mathematics, physics, and chemistry background to qualify and enroll in an associate or bachelor’s program.

Education Requirements

Associate Degree

While most hiring managers prefer employing candidates with a bachelor’s degree, you can qualify for entry-level jobs with an associate degree.

This two-year program allows high school students to work in a technician capacity or transfer credits to a bachelor’s program.

Bachelor’s Degree

A bachelor's degree in materials engineering comprises around 120 credits and explores courses like materials synthesis, thermodynamics of materials, structure, defects, etc.

Some programs borrow courses from related engineering fields like mechanical and industrial engineering.

Master’s Degree

This advanced degree leverages your undergraduate education and work experience and prepares you for advisory roles and other managerial tasks.

You can increase your marketability with a master’s degree from an accredited college or institution and work with other engineers in upper-management positions.

Doctorate in Materials Engineering

Materials engineers who wish to work in research and academia can pursue a doctorate in this engineering field. This terminal degree qualifies you for research-focused jobs and other managerial tasks.

Some schools even allow you to earn a Ph.D. without a master’s degree and combine the two programs.

Employment Prospects

Materials engineers work in multiple engineering disciplines and help design various materials and products through research and development.

These professionals can work in research and development laboratories, oil and gas sectors, biomedical facilities, and semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing industries.

Materials engineers can enjoy high employment prospects and job stability thanks to technological advancements, sustainability, and economic factors.

Materials Engineering Career Forecast

The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a 6% growth for materials engineers from 2021 to 2031. With over 1700 yearly job openings for this engineering discipline, materials engineers enjoy an impressive career outlook.

Each year more materials engineers replace workers who switch to different occupations or retire from their positions.

With the growing demand for sustainable materials and manufacturing processes, more materials engineers join the labor force to help develop sustainable products.

Lucrative Materials Engineering Career Paths

These are some lucrative career options for materials engineers to explore.

Materials Engineer

Materials engineers develop, test, and process materials for creating various products, including golf clubs, computer chips, biomedical devices, and more.

These professionals study metals, ceramics, composites, plastics, and nanomaterials to create new materials for public use.

Materials engineers typically solve problems for different fields and explore similar occupations like materials science and mechanical engineering.

Average Salary

An average materials engineer earns around $98,000 in median wages, with the top 10% making over $160,000.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Design and monitor product testing processes
  • Investigate causes of product failure and develop fail-safes
  • Monitor materials’ performance
  • Plan and appraise new projects with other professionals

Industries Employing Materials Engineers

Top-paying sectors for materials engineers include:

  • Pipeline Transportation of Crude Oil
  • Federal Executive Branch (OEWS Designation)
  • Oil and Gas Extraction
  • Semiconductor and Other Electronic Component Manufacturing

Ceramic Engineer

These specialized materials engineers study ceramic materials and transform them into various useful products. They work with different existing materials, from glassware to clay and non-metallic objects, to create new ceramic materials.

Ceramic engineers monitor and evaluate the impact of these processed materials on the environment. Materials engineers specialize in this field to understand specific material types.

Average Salary

These professionals earn over $80,000 in median annual wages.

Roles and Responsibilities

Some job duties of these engineers include:

  • Converting ceramics into usable products
  • Planning projects and supervising other engineers
  • Studying and researching new materials

Industries Employing Ceramic Engineers

  • Aerospace and chemical industries
  • Biomedical research facilities
  • Iron and steel mills and ferroalloy manufacturing

Composites Engineer

These engineers create structures and products with composite materials like resins, carbon fibers, and glass fiber-based materials. They help create durable structures such as bridges, spacecraft, buildings, imitation granite, and designs that can withstand demanding situations.

A composites engineer has various job duties, including evaluating technical and economic factors relating to materials and technologies. In addition, they work with other engineering fields to manufacture technologically advanced products.

Average Salary

Composites engineers earn over $80,000 in median wages, with the top percentile earning over $140,000.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Study materials and make informed decisions on production processes
  • Oversee composite material production
  • Develop systems to improve end products

Industries Employing Composites Engineers

  • Consumer products and manufacturing
  • Aerospace and defense contractors
  • Automotive and construction

Plastics Engineer

Plastics engineers develop products and materials made with plastic. They test new plastics, such as polymers, for new applications.

They also work with other engineers to ensure production and assembly processes go smoothly.

Average Salary

These professionals earn median annual wages of around $85,000.

Roles and Responsibilities

Their job duties include:

  • Designing plastic molds for products like toy golf clubs and plastic bricks
  • Creating and reviewing validation reports
  • Coordinating and testing hardware delivery and manufacture
  • Lowering manufacturing costs and improving processes

Industries Employing Plastics Engineers

  • Manufacturing industries
  • Semiconductor and Other Electronic Component Manufacturing
  • Biomedical and engineering sectors

Metallurgical Engineer

These engineering professionals work with metal alloys, steel, aluminum, and other metallic raw materials to create everyday products.

Metallurgists solve various manufacturing issues by studying metal properties and structure.

They use complex equipment like electron microscopes, X-ray machines, spectrographs, and welding machines to determine metals’ properties.

Average Salary

Metallurgical engineers earn over $74,000 in median wages, with the top percentile making over $90,000.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Study materials and various metals
  • Identify methods of extracting and isolating metals for testing
  • Determine metals’ chemical requirements and properties
  • Develop special alloys used to make aircraft wings

Industries Employing Metallurgical Engineers

  • Research laboratories
  • Metal production companies
  • Aerospace and automotive industries
  • Treatment plants and steel mills

Bioengineers and Biomedical Engineers

Bioengineers and biomedical engineers design and create biomedical devices, computer chips, software, and more, using engineering principles and science.

Their work spans many fields. For example, a biomedical engineer can design computer software for complex instruments like 3D x-ray machines or simulations for new drug therapies.

Average Salary

The median annual salary for bioengineers and biomedical engineers is around $97,000, with the highest 10% earning over $150,000.

Roles and Responsibilities

Some job duties of these engineers include:

  • Designing medical equipment and devices with select materials
  • Installing and maintaining biomedical devices
  • Developing statistical models and simulations
  • Writing technical reports and research papers

Industries Employing Bioengineers and Biomedical Engineers

  • Medical Equipment and Supplies Manufacturing
  • Scientific Research and Development Services
  • Pharmaceutical and Medicine Manufacturing
  • Semiconductor and Other Electronic Component Manufacturing

Semiconductor Processing Engineer

These engineers develop new technologies and improve product quality during the materials processing stages. As a result, they are present at various production stages and ensure everything goes smoothly before launch.

Semiconductor engineers handle processing procedures, monitor prototype testing, run feasibility studies, and more.

Average Salary

Semiconductor processing engineers earn over $85,000 in median annual wages.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Run simulations and detect inefficiencies
  • Work with other engineers to determine causes of product failure
  • Design and manufacture microelectronic materials for computer chips and related products

Industries Employing Semiconductor Processing Engineers

  • Manufacturing plants
  • Research and development sectors
  • Engineering services
  • Computer and electronic product manufacturing

Glass Science Engineers

This branch of materials engineering focuses on glass design and production. Glass science engineers work with extremely small substances and test materials to develop better products for various industries.

Glass science engineers also analyze the impact of glass materials on the environment.

Materials engineers collaborate with these professionals to meet product safety codes and standards.

Average Salary

Glass science engineers earn over $96,000 in median annual salaries.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Design and test new materials
  • Install and maintain equipment for glass production
  • Work on new projects with other engineers
  • Develop new strategies to improve production processes

Industries Employing Glass Science Engineers

  • Architectural, engineering, and related services
  • Management of companies and enterprises
  • Automobile and biomedical sectors

Welding Engineers

Welding engineers combine physics, engineering, metallurgy, and materials science knowledge to design and optimize welding operations. They also work with metal alloys and extremely small substances to improve welding techniques and ensure quality control.

Average Salary

Welding engineers earn around $79,000 in median annual wages.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Design welded parts for pressure vessels, biomedical devices, pipelines, and other substances
  • Manage new projects and construction
  • Investigate and troubleshoot welding issues

Industries Employing Welding Engineers

  • Equipment manufacturing sectors
  • Transportation and shipping
  • Utilities and power generation
  • Construction industries

Process Engineer

Process engineers design and implement manufacturing processes to reduce waste and improve efficiency. They create systems that utilize workers, materials, and information.

These professionals handle processing procedures, monitor quality and safety, and suggest areas for improvement.

Average Salary

Process engineers earn over $76,000 in median wages, with the top percentile making over $100,000.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Handle managerial tasks, supervise materials processing, and run quality checks
  • Prepare proposals and document strategies
  • Develop and implement industrial processes

Industries Employing Process Engineers

  • Pharmaceuticals and biotechnology
  • Construction and manufacturing
  • Food and beverages
  • Electronics and computers

Aerospace Engineers

Aerospace engineers design, create, and manufacture satellites, aircraft, and missiles for the government and private sectors. They adopt materials science and engineering principles to ensure projects meet safety and quality standards.

You can specialize as an aeronautical engineer and design propulsion systems like aircraft wings. Or an astronautical engineer and develop spacecraft.

Average Salary

Aerospace engineers earn over $120,000 in median wages, with the top 10% making more than $168,000.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Design new materials, perform quality checks, and inspect damaged products
  • Direct and coordinate manufacturing processes
  • Assess project proposals and ensure technical feasibility

Industries Employing Aerospace Engineers

  • Aerospace Product and Parts Manufacturing
  • Support Activities for Air Transportation
  • Navigational, Measuring, Electromedical, and Control Instruments Manufacturing
  • Scientific Research and Development Services

Quality Engineer

Quality engineers improve business operations with strategic plans that generate revenue for the organization. In addition, they develop corrective measures by studying the product’s atomic structure and identifying its shortfalls.

Average Salary

Quality engineers earn over $70,000 in median wages.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Test materials and ensure industry compliance
  • Analyze materials properties to reduce product failure
  • Handle managerial tasks, supervise manufacturing processes, and observe safety regulations

Industries Employing Quality Engineers

  • Public health sectors
  • Consumer goods manufacturers and distributors
  • Architectural, engineering, and related Services
  • Management of companies and enterprises

Manufacturing Engineer

Manufacturing engineers design, develop, and implement new products or processes for industries and organizations. For example, they help produce building materials, packaged foods, furniture, consumer electronics, and more.

They handle various production roles, including preparing budgets, managing the labor force, optimizing efficiency, and minimizing labor costs.

Average Salary

Manufacturing engineers earn a median annual salary of around $72,000.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Research existing technology to determine suitable equipment for production
  • Analyze labor costs and prepare proposals
  • Maximize efficiency from new machinery
  • Improve workers’ safety and satisfaction

Industries Employing Manufacturing Engineers

  • Pharmaceuticals and medical supplies
  • Aerospace and automotive industries
  • Machinery manufacturing
  • Professional, scientific, and technical services

Materials Scientist

These scientists study materials and substances at molecular and atomic levels and analyze their interactions. As a result, they understand how old and new materials perform and design more durable products.

Materials science is a broad field, so these professionals usually specialize in a material type or technique.

Average Salary

According to ZipRecruiter, materials scientists make around $83,000 yearly, at $40 per hour.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Research materials’ chemical properties
  • Analyze substances and determine their composition and concentration
  • Collaborate with a materials engineer to improve product performance

Industries Employing Materials Scientists

  • Healthcare sectors
  • Scientific research and development services
  • Aerospace and automotive
  • IT and telecommunications
  • Professional and commercial equipment and supplies merchant wholesalers

Technical Sales Engineer

These professionals help companies and organizations sell their products with strong interpersonal skills and technical specifications knowledge.

They specialize in technologically advanced products and spend their time convincing clients to buy their merchandise.

Average Salary

Technical sales engineers earn over $70,000 in median wages, with the top 10% making over $180,000 yearly.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Secure new product orders and arrange delivery
  • Analyze labor costs with sales teams and modify products to meet client needs
  • Work with other engineers to research and develop new products

Industries Employing Technical Sales Engineers

  • Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services
  • Semiconductor and Other Electronic Component Manufacturing
  • Software Publishers
  • Computer and Peripheral Equipment Manufacturing

Chemical Engineer

Chemical engineers apply chemistry, physics, biology, and mathematical principles to solve production problems. They ensure select materials and other substances meet chemical requirements and design processes for large-scale manufacturing.

Chemical engineers also promote the safety of the work environment, materials engineers, and handle other managerial tasks.

Average Salary

These professionals earn over $100,000 in median wages, with the top percentile earning more than $187,000.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Study existing materials to make new products
  • Research and develop improved manufacturing processes
  • Estimate production and labor costs
  • Evaluate and troubleshoot production equipment

Industries Employing Chemical Engineers

  • Commercial and Service Industry Machinery Manufacturing
  • Oil and Gas Extraction
  • Chemical Manufacturing Plants
  • Scientific Research and Development Services

How to Boost your Materials Engineering Career

Materials engineers can advance their careers through various methods. The first one involves gaining industry certifications, while the second option focuses on open-access courses, cooperative programs, and continued education.

You may need professional licensure to work for government agencies or gain access to high-ranking positions.

Industry certifications from the National Society of Professional Engineers and the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying can boost your career prospects.

Pros and Cons of Materials Engineering Careers

Materials engineers study material structures and improve our daily lives and products. As a result, this field has numerous benefits to enjoy but also its downsides.

Let’s explore some of the major ones.


  • Lucrative salary packages
  • Contribute to society and technological innovations
  • High job satisfaction
  • Room for career advancements


  • Safety hazards
  • Long working hours
  • Extensive job requirements

Skills You’ll Develop While Studying Materials Engineering

Materials engineers require specific skills and abilities to perform their duties effectively and excel in their respective fields. These are some essential skills you'll develop while studying this course.

Analytical Skills

Materials engineers work on multiple projects related to other engineering fields. And as a result, they need to understand various material structures and how they withstand demanding conditions.

You can use your analytical skills to identify unique material qualities, understand the reasons for material failures, and interpret research findings.

Attention to Details

Attention to technical specifications and crucial details might make or break your engineering project. This skill is valuable when researching material properties, developing products, or analyzing molecular and atomic structures.

Problem-solving Skills

Honing this skill allows you to troubleshoot potential design flaws and solve problems before they escalate. In addition, you can test and monitor any changes to the developed materials.

Math Skills

Materials engineers develop products and study materials by applying advanced mathematical concepts and calculus principles.

Communication Skills

This skill is essential for any successful career path. However, it's critical for materials engineers since they need to relay information to non-technical audiences and write reports.

You need to develop fluent speaking skills and work on delivering presentations effectively.

How to Prepare for a Materials Engineering Career

1. Get a Bachelor’s Degree

The first step to a successful materials engineering career is earning a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or institution.

You can research ABET-certified programs online before making your decision.

2. Become a Certified Engineer in Training

After completing your bachelor’s program, you can apply for an engineering license.

Enroll for the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Exam and get a passing grade. With this license, you can work as an engineer in training or engineering intern.

3. Get Work Experience

Apply for entry-level positions and gain valuable practical experience in your specific field. Discover your areas of interest and grow your engineering skills.

You can also join cooperative engineering programs to network with other professionals.

4. Earn a Professional Engineering License

Become a professional engineer (PE) by taking the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam. You can also write the PE Materials and Metallurgical exam to become a licensed materials engineer.

Materials Engineering Resources to Help Your Career

You can find helpful resources for materials engineers here:

These professional organizations provide valuable learning materials and networking opportunities for young graduates seeking to explore the industry. You can also explore free online courses from Coursera and edX or fellowships from professional organizations.

The American Society for Engineering Education offers fellowship programs for graduate students to develop specialized skills and meet employers.

How to Switch to a Materials Engineering Career

Thanks to engineering's multidisciplinary nature, most professionals can switch careers from other engineering disciplines to become a materials engineer.

You can transition to a materials engineering position with a bachelor’s degree in a similar field. However, you may need to take a few courses to improve your knowledge of relevant materials and substances.

If you're moving from a non-engineering field, you may need to start with a bachelor’s degree or postgraduate program.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is materials engineering?

This engineering discipline studies and investigates material properties to create new materials with improved chemical and physical qualities.

Materials engineers work with other professionals to optimize production processes and design eco-friendly and sustainable products.

What certification do I need for a materials engineering career?

These engineering certifications help you showcase your skills, prove credibility, and stand out from the competition.

Can I get a materials engineering degree online?

Yes, you can.

Several accredited institutions and colleges offer online undergraduate and postgraduate degrees for materials engineers.

What fields can materials engineering professionals work in?

Materials engineers work in multiple fields, including transportation, aerospace, consumer electronics, biomedical research, manufacturing, and scientific research.

Is there a high demand for materials engineering majors?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a 6% growth for materials engineers from 2021 to 2031, with over 1700 yearly job openings. As a result of this demand, more materials engineers replace workers who switch to different occupations or retire from their positions.

Final Thoughts

Materials engineers study materials and their properties to create various products for multiple industries and organizations. With the help of special machines and equipment, they understand material components and solve different issues for multiple sectors.

A materials engineering degree from an accredited school paves the way for a successful career in multiple industries.

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