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Metallurgists develop and manufacture metal items and structures that range from tiny precision-made components to huge engineering parts.

Metallurgists usually specialise in a specific area such as process, chemical or structural metallurgy.

What does a metallurgist do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Metallurgists study the properties of metals and then apply their findings to practical applications, such as metal production. They work with a range of metals including copper, precious metals, iron, steel, zinc and aluminium alloys. Metallurgists can work in a number of areas including civil engineering, aircraft manufacture, automotive engineering and the defence industry. They might also be called materials engineers and will often find themselves working in a team made up of engineers, chemists and other materials scientists.

Metallurgists usually specialise in one of three areas:

  • Chemical metallurgists focus on the extraction of metals. They conduct tests on ores and figure out the best method of extraction. They also test metals for signs of corrosion.
  • Physical metallurgists study how a metal behaves in different conditions including in a hot environment or when it's put under stress. They will investigate any signs of weakness.
  • Process metallurgists design metal parts. They are responsible for shaping metal parts through methods such as casting, as well as joining metal parts by welding and soldering them.

Responsibilities typically include:

  • liaising with clients to determine design requirements
  • providing technical advice about the suitability of metals for different purposes
  • making recommendations and advising about product feasibility
  • undertaking new product research
  • creating precise designs for components
  • developing prototypes and innovative solutions to problems
  • investigating corrosion and metal failure/fatigue
  • liaising with and supervising engineering and technical staff
  • ensuring adherence to manufacturing quality standards
  • overseeing operational quality control processes
  • using specialist computer applications
  • carrying out laboratory-based analysis of samples
  • using both destructive and non-destructive techniques to test composition
  • developing new test and repair processes
  • investigating production problems.

Typical employers of metallurgists

  • metal and materials producers
  • manufacturing and process companies
  • foundries
  • research and development organisations
  • specialist consultancies
  • utilities companies
  • the Civil Service (particularly the Ministry of Defence).

Jobs are advertised online, by careers services and recruitment agencies, in newspapers and in relevant publications including the Welding Journal, The Engineer, Engineering, Materials World and their respective websites.

Qualifications and training required

A degree in metallurgy, materials science/technology or a similar engineering subject is normally necessary for entry into the profession. Engineers wishing to gain chartered status (CEng) must have a masters degree accredited by a relevant engineering institution (either a four-year MEng or a BEng/BSc together with an MSc).

Specialist postgraduate qualifications are viewed favourably by employers and are particularly beneficial for graduates without relevant first degrees or for candidates wishing to gain a research post. Read our article on engineering postgraduate study to explore your options.

Relevant experience, while not essential, can be helpful – many employers offer final year project work, degree sponsorship, vacation work and placement years. Take a look at our list of engineering employers who offer industrial placements and summer internships.

Key skills for metallurgists

  • innovation
  • commercial awareness
  • organisation
  • interpersonal skills
  • problem-solving skills
  • communication skills
  • teamworking skills
  • good IT skills
  • analytical skills.

Read our article on the skills engineering employers look for for more information and then find out how you can prove you possess these competencies at engineering assessment centres.

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