The profession of materials scientist is closely related to the field of chemistry research. Materials scientists study the structures and chemical properties of various materials to develop new products or enhance existing ones. A material scientist developed the composite material used today for boat hulls in lieu of fiberglass, a product developed by a material scientist generations ago. The plastics used in automobiles, non-wrinkle fabrics, super-strength metallic compounds - all of these are examples of a materials scientist at work. Because of the quickened pace in new product development today, some materials scientists specialize in areas such as ceramics, metals or resin composites.
The minimum degree for work in this field is a bachelor's in chemistry. Most materials scientists directing product development research today hold doctorates, or have entered the field with a master's in chemistry and moved up through experience.
According to the Labor Department materials scientists held 9,700 jobs in 2006 while chemists working in industrial settings that year numbered 84,000. It is likely that many of those chemists were involved in materials development. Many professionals in this field also teach at the collegiate level.
Job growth for chemists and materials scientists is projected to be about the same as the average projected growth for jobs overall over the next several years. While many chemical firms and pharmaceutical firms begin to outsource their chemistry work, materials development may see an expansion as an in-house function due to proprietary development of synthetics in so many fields, including construction materials, automobile manufacturing and textiles.
Lowest 10% $43,670
Median Salary $80,230
Highest 10% $124,010
Source: U.S. Department of Labor