Materials engineer: job description

Last updated: 27 Feb 2024, 14:56

Materials engineers use their expertise to design, process and apply different materials effectively.

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What does a materials engineer do? Graduate salaries | Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Materials engineers are specialists in the properties and structures of different substances, including plastics, metals, chemicals and nanomaterials. Using their knowledge of the qualities of materials, materials engineers research and test how different substances can be used to develop new technology and solve problems.

Typical duties include:

  • testing, modifying and evaluating the performance of different materials (and combinations of materials) for different qualities
  • analysing test data
  • investigating incidents of material failure
  • providing technical advice about the suitability of materials for different products and problems
  • building prototypes and testing them
  • exploring the environmental impact of different materials and their manufacture and use
  • developing manufacturing processes
  • overseeing operational quality control processes
  • liaising with suppliers, customers and manufacturing/development staff
  • supervising engineering and technical staff.

You can find out more about materials engineering by reading our materials and metals sector overview, written by an experienced materials engineer.

Graduate salaries

Salaries for materials engineers tend to be start at around £24,000, according to jobs comparison site Glassdoor. If you join a graduate scheme, there may be other perks available, including company cars and payment of your professional institution fees.

Earnings will increase with experience, especially if you achieve chartership.

Typical employers of materials engineers

  • Metal/materials production companies
  • Medical device manufacturers
  • Research and development organisations
  • Utilities companies
  • Oil and gas companies
  • The Civil Service
  • Construction firms.

Jobs are advertised on targetjobs, by careers services and on specialist jobs boards.

Qualifications and training required

There are routes into this profession for both school leavers and university graduates. Graduates will need a degree in a relevant engineering or science-based subject, such as materials engineering, mechanical engineering, materials science, or earth sciences. Some employers will ask for a 2.1 degree but others will accept candidates with a 2.2.

A few employers ask for postgraduate qualifications. A list of accredited courses is available on the Engineering Council’s website and you can read our article on engineering postgraduate study to explore your options.

Engineering work experience is an opportunity to build a realistic understanding of the profession. It will also help your job applications stand out. If your degree doesn’t include a placement year, look for summer internships or, if you’re in your first or second year, insight weeks. These are short work experience placements at which you can meet staff and hear from them about the kinds of work firms work on.

Once you are employed, achieving chartered (CEng) status with the Engineering Council can help to demonstrate your professionalism and commitment to your field. To become chartered, you will need an accredited bachelors degree in engineering or technology, plus an appropriate masters degree (MEng) or doctorate (EngD) accredited by a professional engineering institution such as the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3). You will also be eligible with an integrated MSc. To find out more, take a look at our guide to chartership.

If you are a school leaver, you could enter the material engineering profession via a higher or degree apprenticeship. You’ll study on day release while working in a technologist (or similar) role.

Key skills for materials engineers

Employers will be seeking:

  • sound scientific and technical knowledge
  • analytical skills
  • flexibility and the ability to adapt to change
  • leadership skills
  • excellent communication and interpersonal skills
  • commercial awareness
  • attention to detail
  • teamworking skills.

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This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the targetjobs content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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