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Materials engineer

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Summary of occupation

Materials engineers investigate, develop, process and test ceramics, chemicals, polymers, metals and other materials. By examining the way various materials behave and are formed at the atomic level, materials engineers are able to improve their existing properties, and create entirely new substances. They investigate cases of material failure, finding ways to extend the life of these materials and protect them against deterioration, while maximising strength and durability. The materials they develop are used in the manufacture of everything, from simple objects, such as pencils and clothing, to more advanced products, such as computer chips, bullet proof vests and aircraft engine components.

ANZSCO description: Investigates the properties of metals, ceramics, polymers and other materials and assesses and develops their engineering and commercial applications. Registration or licensing may be required.
Alternative names: Materials Scientist, Materials Technologist
Job prospects: Limited
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

A materials engineer needs:

  • to be able to work as part of a team
  • good communication skills
  • to be interested in the practical application of science and engineering
  • the ability to identify, analyse and solve problems
  • good organisation and planning skills.
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Working conditions

Materials engineers may work in manufacturing plants, laboratories or offices. They generally work regular office hours, though shift work may be required in some positions. This is a rapidly changing field, with regular advances in technologies requiring materials engineers to be continuously learning. Materials engineers must work to strict safety and quality control requirements, to ensure products are not dangerous and will behave in the same way under identical, real world conditions.

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Salary details

On average, chemical and materials engineers can expect to earn approximately $1 846 per week ($95 992 per year), depending on the organisation they work for and their level of experience.

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Tools and technologies

Materials engineers use a variety of scientific and laboratory equipment in their research, including specially designed, high-powered microscopes which allow them to examine materials at the atomic level. They also use a wide range of technologies to test materials they have developed. Testing could include using a sealed chamber and certain gasses to test a product's resistance to pollution, using x-rays to examine any internal changes, as well as a huge array of other tests to determine how materials will behave in the real world, before they enter general production.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

To become a materials engineer, you usually need to complete a degree in engineering majoring in materials engineering or a related field such as chemical or metallurgical engineering. You may need to complete further postgraduate study to specialise in materials engineering.

Most universities in Western Australia offer relevant undergraduate degree courses. Contact the universities you are interested in for more information.

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Related apprenticeships

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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Related videos

Materials Engineer  Video Materials Engineer Occupation

Materials engineers investigate, develop, process and test ceramics, chemicals, polymers, metals and other materials.

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