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Materials engineer Materials scientist

Materials engineers research the behaviour of materials used in industry to help make them stronger, lighter or more durable.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £20,000 to £45,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 35 to 40 per week

1. Entry requirements

You’ll usually need a foundation degree, HNC, HND or degree in a relevant subject, like applied chemistry, applied physics, materials engineering, materials science, or technology.

You could also do a degree specialising in a group of materials or their commercial use, like biomaterials, metallurgy, polymer science, or sports and materials science

You could get into this job through an apprenticeship, and then work your way up

The Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining has information about careers and qualifications in this field.

2. Skills required

You’ll need:

  • creative problem-solving skills
  • maths, science and IT skills
  • communication and presentation skills
  • the ability to prioritise and plan effectively

3. What you'll do

You’ll research materials used in industry, like carbon fibre reinforced plastic, polymers, ceramics or alloys, and test their behaviours under different conditions.

You’ll usually work in a particular area, like metals, coatings or chemicals. 

Your day-to-day duties could include:

  • researching new ways to combine materials
  • analysing test data, using computer modelling software
  • developing prototypes for new products
  • designing manufacturing processes that use new materials
  • investigating the reasons behind component or structural failures
  • supervising a team of technicians
  • writing reports 

You’ll use non-destructive testing methods to investigate materials, like electrical conductivity, or tolerance to heat or corrosion.

You might work with nanomaterials like graphene and phosphorene, and identify where their properties could be put to use, like in computer electronics or biological sensors.

4. Salary

Starter: £20,000 to £26,000

Experienced: £26,500 to £40,000

Highly Experienced: over £45,000

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You’ll usually work 35 to 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday, with some overtime to meet deadlines.

You’ll be based in an office, laboratory or manufacturing environment. 

You may have to travel between sites.

6. Career path and progression

With experience, you could move into project management or technical sales. You could also specialise in a particular material, or work in research and consultancy.

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Last updated: 08 December 2016