Materials engineers create, develop and test new and existing materials used in the manufacture of all manner of products.
What does a Materials Engineer do?
Materials engineers create, develop and test new and existing materials used in the manufacture of all manner of products. They study the properties and structures of metals, ceramics, plastics, composite materials and other substances to create new materials that meet certain mechanical, electrical, and chemical requirements.
As a materials engineer, you would:
examine the properties and behaviours of materials under different conditions, to enable advances in technology. You would usually specialise in a particular area, such as metals, polymers or chemicals.
Your tasks would include:
- conduct research to investigate the properties of materials
- test materials, and combinations of materials, under varying conditions
- using specialist software for analysis and modelling of the performance of materials
- design and develop new manufacturing processes for new materials
- develop prototypes for new products
- produce cost estimates for the production of new materials and material processes
- writing reports of your findings
- supervise other engineers, technologists and scientists
- investigate the reasons behind product failures and how to overcome these.
Key skills and interests
To become a materials engineer, you would need:
- an understanding of manufacturing processes
- scientific, numerical and technical skills
- strong analytical and problem-solving skills
- patience and persistence
- skills in maths, IT and statistical modelling
- commercial awareness and the ability to manage a budget
- leadership and teamwork skills.
Working hours and conditions
As a materials engineer, you would usually work standard business hours, Monday to Friday, with occasional evenings and weekends to meet deadlines.
You could be based in an office, a laboratory or in a manufacturing environment. You may have to travel to visit manufacturers and clients.
How to become an Materials Engineer?
Entry Level Education
To become a materials engineer, you usually have to complete a degree in engineering at university with a major in materials engineering. To get into these courses you usually need to gain your senior secondary school certificate or equivalent. English, mathematics, chemistry and physics would be appropriate subjects to study prior to university.
Graduates may be eligible for membership of Engineers Australia or Materials Australia.
Employment of materials engineers is projected to show little or no change.
Materials engineers will be needed to design uses for new materials both in traditional manufacturing industries, and in industries focused on new medical or scientific products, including nanotechnologies.
The decline of manufacturing across a broad range of industries in Australia is leading to fewer opportunities for materials engineers. Employment opportunities are likely to be best in growth industries such as healthcare, medical devices, and industries where nanotechnology is growing in application.