Materials scientists or engineers research, design and develop a range of materials. This could be plastics, metals, polymers and ceramics. They aim to make materials stronger, lighter and more environmentally friendly.
They may be called metallurgists or polymer engineers if working with one type of material.
You could be:
examining the structure and properties of materials
testing materials to see how they perform under conditions, such as heat or prolonged use
choosing the best materials for a particular product
developing prototypes and carrying out tests
analysing test data using specialist computer software
designing manufacturing processes and ensuring they run smoothly
investigating reasons for component or structural failure
researching how products and processes impact on the environment
supervising a team of technicians and working with other professionals.
The figures below are only a guide. Actual pay rates may vary, depending on:
where you work
the size of the company or organisation you work for
the demand for the job.
The starting salaries for graduate materials scientists are in the range £22,000 to £26,000 a year. With experience or a postgraduate qualification starting salaries can be from £24,000 to £34,000 a year, rising to around £50,000 a year.
Materials engineers mainly work in a laboratory or an office.
You will probably visit manufacturing sites and suppliers of materials.
You would usually work regular hours, but some overtime may be required to meet deadlines.
At times you might have to wear protective clothing, such as a lab coat, safety goggles and face mask.
There will be strict health and safety procedures to follow.
You usually need a degree. Relevant subjects include materials engineering, materials science, polymer engineering, metallurgy or applied chemistry or physics.
Entry to a degree is usually 4-5 Highers including Maths and a science or technological subject.
If you wish to gain incorporated or chartered engineer status you must make sure that the degree you study is accredited by the Engineering Council or one of their affiliates.
Edinburgh Napier University offers courses accredited by the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining.
You may be able to get in with a Higher National Diploma (HND) or through other training routes at technician level.
Materials scientists or engineers work in a wide range of industries. These can include construction, aerospace, plastics, paper, textiles, oil and gas. There are also jobs in engineering companies to design and build production plants.