Education and Training Requirements
Students interested in studying materials engineering should take high school courses in mathematics, such as algebra, trigonometry, and calculus; and in science, such as biology, chemistry, and physics. In high school, science classes are the key—physics and chemistry in particular. However, all other basic courses need to be concentrated on as well: English, math, history, and social science.
High school will not be your last stop for education. You will need at least a bachelor's degree to get a job in ceramics engineering.
Your first college courses will initially be geared toward getting you to think logically and analytically. Thus, the first two years of engineering programs typically center on math, physics, chemistry, and computer courses. You should be inspired and challenged to approach problems first theoretically and then practically. For instance, after you are presented with a problem, you will first think about how it would be solved, then formulate a step-by-step method by which to solve it, and then actually tackle the problem according to that method. This thinking process should be nurtured throughout your core college courses geared toward ceramics engineering, for engineers are expected to have an aptitude for problem solving.
In your junior and senior years, you will focus particularly on your chosen area of specialization. If you major in ceramics engineering, classes and problems will be concentrated on issues in the research, development, and manufacturing ceramics engineering discipline. During these last two years of undergraduate work, it is important to consider and evaluate your goals in the field and to determine whether you prefer research, development/design, production, sales, or management. Focusing on this objective makes it easier for you to plan your job search.
Approximately 60 college and university programs in ceramic and materials engineering are accredited by ABET, a nonprofit organization that accredits college and university programs in engineering, engineering technology, computing, and applied and natural science in the U.S. and around the world. Visit http://main.abet.org/aps/Accreditedprogramsearch.aspx for a list of programs.
ASM International offers a certificate program in ceramic technology. The program consists of three required classes (Fundamentals of Ceramic Technology, Ceramic Processing, Statistical Process Control for Ceramics and Glass) and two of the following elective courses: Physical Properties of Ceramic Materials, Glaze Technology and Art, Ceramic Laboratory Procedures, Electronic Ceramics, Refractory Technology, Materials Science for Industry, or Glass Technology.
Other Education or Training
The American Society for Engineering Education offers continuing education (CE) opportunities for engineers via its annual conference and other events. The National Society of Professional Engineers provides webinars for student members of the society. Past webinars included "Career Success in Engineering: A Guide for Students and New Professionals," "Ethics and Professionalism for Students and Young Engineers," "How to Get Your First Job," and "Engineering Your Career with a High Quality Social Network Web Seminar." Other organizations that provide CE opportunities include the American Ceramic Society; ASM International; and The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society. Contact these organizations for more information.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
SME (previously known as the Society of Manufacturing Engineers) offers voluntary certification. Visit its Web site (https://www.sme.org) for more information.
Licensing is not generally required for most materials engineering professions, unless their work involves providing services directly to the public. However, licensing is recommended to enhance your credentials and make yourself open to more job opportunities.
In general, the licensing process for all branches of engineering results in the formal designation of Professional Engineer (PE). Requirements vary from state to state but generally it takes about four to five years to become a licensed PE. Many engineers begin the process while still in college by taking the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, an eight-hour test that covers everything from electronics, chemistry, mathematics, and physics to the more advanced engineering issues.
Once a candidate has successfully passed the FE exam, the next requirement to fulfill is to acquire four years of progressive engineering experience. Some states require that materials engineers obtain experience under the supervision of a PE. Once a candidate has four years of on-the-job experience, he or she then takes another exam specific to their engineering area (each branch of engineering has its own specialized, upper-level test). Candidates who successfully complete this examination are officially referred to as Professional Engineers. Without this designation, engineers aren't allowed to refer to themselves as PEs or function in the same legal capacity as PEs. These exams are offered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (http://www.ncees.org).
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
Take as many math and science classes as possible and participate in internships and other experiential opportunities to gain experience in the field.
Ceramics engineers need to be inquisitive and have an analytical mind. If you are interested in this field, no doubt you like to ask questions about how materials work and how elements react to each other. What characteristics of concrete make it crackable? What makes fiber optics carry messages over space? Ceramics engineers have inquiring minds, often analyzing and trying to figure things out.
Engineers also need to be detail oriented. Since you might be doing testing and recording of process results, you'll need to be relatively comfortable working with details. You should enjoy doing intellectually demanding work and be disciplined and motivated enough to do your job without close and constant supervision, paying close attention to what you are doing. It's also important that you be able to communicate well and get along with your coworkers because engineers often work together.