Earning your Materials Science and Engineering Degree
Few studies are as vital to the advancement of industry as Materials Science and Engineering. Focused on the study, discovery and creation of new physical materials for use in everything from medicine, automotive and aerospace engineering and consumer goods, to rocketry and space exploration, careers in Materials Science and Engineering maintain a heavy focus on attention to detail, critical thinking and problem solving skills. As an “interdisciplinary science,” Materials Science and Engineering combines a variety of specific skills and studies, varying upon the professional or scientific objectives of the student. With strong emphasis in areas such as mathematics, thermodynamics, chemistry, bio-chemistry and materials properties (mechanical, transitional, chemical,) Materials Science and Engineering is a study which focuses on the physical materials used in given applications, for the purposes of research, safety, quality control and in certain professional areas, forensic engineering and investigation.
If you are ready to learn more about this area of engineering, contact the schools in our directory to learn more about their degree programs. We work with these schools directly and do not charge for our services. We simply want to help students like you understand your options!
Classically referred to as “metallurgy” in many schools and training programs, Materials Science and Engineering is generally regarded as a relatively new field of study, combining older metallurgic arts and understanding with newer studies of things such as atomic structure, applied physics and the creation and study of newer synthetic materials. Professional opportunities in the field cover a broad spectrum of industrial and scientific sectors, ranging from basic scientific research and discovery to applicable industry specific occupations in fields such as bio-technology, defense and consumer product engineering.
Educational requirements throughout given industries range from four year Bachelor’s degrees, to more advanced Masters and Doctorates. Companies and institutions looking to employ Material Science Engineers typically look for a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree, though in a few, very rare instances, mixes of formal education and practical working experience can be acceptable for some entry level positions, in lieu of a formal degree. As Material Science Engineering is considered a “interdisciplinary science,” and covers a broad range of applicable physical sciences, specific focuses of study can weigh heavily on available career options after schooling.
Ranging from thermodynamics, chemical and bio-chemical research, synthetic materials creation and testing and even forensic engineering and investigation, it is often advisable for students entering the field of Material Science Engineering, to fully investigate potential and desired career goals while going through their studies, so as to ensure the appropriate skills and education are attained in pursuit of their end goals. For example, should a student with a strong focus on thermodynamics and mineral based composite materials enter the fields of blast furnace design or rocketry, their skills and education may not be as well suited for bio-medical or bio-mechanical design as one with a stronger focus in bio-mechanics or bio-chemistry. As such, within such a diverse field as Material Science and Engineering, it can be helpful to fully explore available career options either before enrolling in a degree program and while entering the introductory level courses of such, so as to adequately define one’s focus of study going forward.
Opportunities and Salary Information for Graduates
In general, as a broadly applicable field of study with many avenues open to graduates and post-graduates throughout numerous professional sectors, Material Science and Engineering maintains a respectable average salary in terms of national averages. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that in 2012, the mean salary for a Materials Engineer was $85,150 annually. In comparison, Onet.com reported a rise in this for 2013 with a reported mean salary of $87,330 per year, with these totals naturally varying between industries and according to educational and experiential backgrounds. Job growth in this particular sector is reported to be effectively flat between 2012 and 2022, according to the BLS, experiencing neither substantial losses nor gains in term of total net employment.
However within the state of California alone, numerous opportunities can be found consistently in the areas of aerospace and defense, medical device design and manufacturing, applied physics research and development (both commercial and academic,) as well as in general consumer products and electronics manufacturing. Additional opportunities in the energy, automotive and information technology sectors can also be found throughout the country and are themselves possessing of growth potential as each of these industries continues to evolve rapidly in light of technological advances.
Real Life Stories of Engineers
Beyond these statistical realities and potential however, many within the fields of Materials Science and Engineering express substantial personal and professional satisfaction with their work and career. Bringing together the applicable skills of dynamic critical thinking and problems solving with those of analytical research and scientific endeavor, the challenges posed to the working professional often result in an enhanced satisfaction with successful end results in respect to projects and ventures undertaken. In seeing the final real world applications to their research, development and testing of new and existing materials, Material Engineers often find themselves on the cutting edge of scientific discovery and advancement.
Taking for example, the case of NASA engineer Clara Wright, the pliable skills learned while studying Material Science and Engineering have given Ms. Wright substantial personal fulfillment, in addition to her remarkable career. Being possessed since her youth with an interest in puzzles and problem solving, Wright gravitated naturally towards the field of material science and engineering. Upon completing her degree, Wright first entered the field of bio-medical research, assisting with the design and development of prosthetic limbs for amputees. Later, Wright took a position at NASA working as a materials engineer, studying materials in use by the space program. In July of 2014, Wright was profiled for NASA’s website, in an effort to highlight both her contributions to the space program, while also the interest and dedication to Material Science and Engineering which brought her to work there.
"I'm very passionate about being a materials engineer," Wright said. "It’s a very fulfilling career particularly at Kennedy because every investigation is unique. It is greatly gratifying to say that I am one of a handful of people in the world who get to work on hardware that is going to the International Space Station, has been in the vacuum of space or is part of the launch structures."
If you want to pursue similar life experiences through a career in engineering, contact the schools listed here to learn more!