Degree programs in materials science enable students to develop an in-depth understanding of the current function and potential of a wide variety of materials. The knowledge acquired in this field of study can provide solutions for numerous real-world problems. Materials science majors can specialize in one of the following career fields.
Materials engineers conduct research and create the design and development specifications for materials to further the potential of various technologies and products. Their education provides the foundation for understanding the properties and behaviors of different substances during the transformation from raw materials to finished products. These materials include ceramics, chemicals and composites as well as metals, textiles and polymers. After conducting and monitoring tests, the engineers analyze and collate the results. They make recommendations regarding the optimal raw materials to use and the process to follow. These engineers can serve as quality control engineers and oversee the development of prototypes.
A metallurgist specializes in the mining and refining of various metals. They examine the performance characteristics of iron, steel and aluminum along with nickel, silver and copper in an industrial setting and how those traits affect the manufacturing process of useful products. To facilitate the extraction of usable ore, metallurgists study corrosion-, fatigue- and temperature-induced changes. They monitor the behavior of stressed metals, analyze the data and provide recommendations for raw materials to be used in new or redesigned products. Their technical expertise includes shaping and combining metals. Metallurgists can work in various areas, including production, design and quality assurance.
Manufacturing System Engineer
Manufacturing engineers collaborate as part of a team to devise, install, monitor and expand various types of manufacturing equipment. They may also design and build high-tech manufacturing facilities. Manufacturing engineers are closely involved in the product development process from the raw materials stage through prototypes to the final product. They focus on creating the most efficient process that allows for the maximum production of high-quality products at the least possible cost in the shortest amount of time. Manufacturing engineers generally utilize a systems approach to finance, materials and methods along with the latest computer technology to span traditional interdisciplinary boundaries.
Product Development Scientist
Companies that manufacture products employ product development engineers to lead and coordinate the design and manufacturing process from conception through the model stage to the finished products. These manufactured goods can be food, medications, cosmetics or electronic devices. Product development engineers work with research scientists to develop new concepts that can be integrated into the manufacturing process. They improve existing products as well as the efficiency and profitability of the manufacturing process. In addition to research and technical staff members, product development engineers may interact with the management team, clients and suppliers, especially when supervising the introduction of a product line.
Technical Sales Engineer
Technical sales engineers use their expertise to market a product and to provide advice and support to clients before and after a sale. They serve as the primary point of contact for customers. Technical sales engineers also provide technical assistance to colleagues preparing bids for prospective clients. These engineers usually call on clients in non-retail, industrial settings, such as factories, hospitals and public utilities. The work varies based on the level of expertise required for the particular product. Along with senior management, technical sales engineers often collaborate with research and development personnel as well as production and quality control engineers.
Materials are used to create products that people use in virtually every aspect of daily life. A materials science degree affords a wide assortment of career opportunities to create and improve these essential products.
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