Materials engineers are involved in the development of new, synthesized materials for use in the manufacture of a wide range of products. The strong, light composites used today in aircraft and boat hulls, in autos and other objects that were once fiberglass have all been developed by materials engineers. These professionals often specialize, some working with metals, others in ceramics or communications equipment such as fiberoptics, some in the world of computer chips or computer monitors.
A bachelor's degree in materials engineering is needed for work as an entry level employee in the field. There is a lot of chemistry, mathematics and even physics devoted to the development and testing of new materials. That is one of the reasons why many materials engineers specialize in product niches.
There were approximately 22,000 materials engineers working in the U.S. in 2006. Many of them work in metals manufacturing; others are employed by companies who manufacture products that use polymers and various forms of plastic in their products.
Materials engineering is closely related to product manufacturing, and the manufacturing sector of the U.S. economy continues to diminish. For that reason the profession will have slow job growth, about half the projected average job growth for jobs overall.
Lowest 10% $51,420
Median Salary $81,820
Highest 10% $124,470
Source: U.S. Department of Labor