Materials Engineering is a field of engineering that encompasses the spectrum of materials types and how to use them in manufacturing. Materials span the range: metals, ceramics, polymers (plastics), semiconductors, and combinations of materials called composites. We live in a world that is both dependent upon and limited by materials. Everything we see and use is made of materials: cars, airplanes, computers, refrigerators, microwave ovens, TVs, dishes, silverware, athletic equipment of all types, and even biomedical devices such as replacement joints and limbs.
All of these require materials specifically tailored for their application. Specific properties are required that result from carefully selecting the materials and from controlling the manufacturing processes used to convert the basic materials into the final engineered product. Exciting new product developments frequently are possible only through new materials and/or processing.
Activities of materials engineers range from primary materials production, including recycling, through the design and development of new materials to the reliable and economical manufacturing for the final product. Such activities are found commonly in industries such as aerospace, transportation, electronics, energy conversion, and biomedical systems.
The future will bring ever-increasing challenges and opportunities for new materials and better processing. Materials are evolving faster today than at any time in history. New and improved materials are an "underpinning technology" - one which can stimulate innovation and product improvement. High quality products result from improved processing and more emphasis will be placed on reclaiming and recycling. For these many reasons, most surveys name the materials field as one of the careers with excellent future opportunities.
More detailed information about Materials Engineering is available on the Career Cornerstone Center's Materials Engineering site.
Career Guidance Suggestions for Pre-University Students Pre-University students should take as many math and science courses as possible, both during school and as part of after-school programs. Students aged 5-9 should do additional math, puzzles, and building or design projects. Students aged 9-12 should take extra math, and if inspired, explore pre-algebra and geometry. Students aged 12-18 might consider taking advanced algebra, chemistry, calculus, geometry, trigonometry, physics, building, design, and engineering concept courses.
There are also several lessons and activities, and projects and competitions that can help provide students with an interest in engineering first hand exposure to electrical engineering principals. Students who implement these activities and participate in projects or competitions have a better understanding of engineering and its impact on society. They'll be better able to determine if engineering is the career path for them by sharing their interest with other students, and experiencing hands-on applications of engineering. Summer programs and internships are another great way for students at the pre-university level to explore engineering.