There are approximately 27,700 materials engineers employed in the United States. Upon graduation most materials engineers go to work in industry. Materials engineers fall into five main employment groups: manufacturing (where the products are made and tested); material applications and development; machinery/equipment (which requires advanced knowledge of mechanical engineering); government positions; and consulting (where you will need your Professional Engineer licensing). Others specialize in computer and electronic products, fabricated metal products, transportation equipment, machinery manufacturing, and primary metal production. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that 16 percent of materials engineers work for transportation equipment manufacturing companies; 10 percent work for architectural, engineering, and related services; and 9 percent work for scientific research and development services. Some materials engineers may continue their studies and go on to teach in higher education. Most materials programs have advanced programs for master's and doctoral studies.
Students can learn about prospective employers and job openings from their school's career services office. Many materials engineers get their start in the field through internships that lead to full-time work. Other ways to find work incude searching companies' Web sites for employment opportunities, as well as searching employment Web sites for job listings for materials engineers.
In general, advancing through the ranks of materials engineers is similar to advancement in other disciplines. Working in entry-level positions usually means executing the research, plans, or theories which someone else has originated. With additional experience and education, materials engineers begin to tackle projects solo or, at least, accept responsibility for organizing and managing them for a supervisor. Those materials engineers with advanced degrees or a great deal of experience can move into supervisory or administrative positions within any one of the major categories, such as research, development, or design. Eventually, materials engineers who have distinguished themselves by consistently producing successful projects, and who have polished their business and managerial skills, will advance to become the directors of engineering for an entire plant or research division. Others become college professors.
Tips for Entry
As a high school student, inquire with established aviation, aerospace, and other manufacturing companies about internships and summer employment opportunities.
Join a school or community group that focuses on shop, engineering, or technology.
Most materials engineers find their first job through their colleges' career services office. Technical recruiters visit universities and colleges annually to interview graduating students and make job offers.