For young people approaching the end of their school studies, the options for what to do next may seem a bit bewildering. All of a sudden they are faced with dozens of well-meaning people providing advice and the benefit of their wisdom.
At the same time, they are finding about careers and university courses that they had never heard of before. Amongst these is the subject of Materials Science and Engineering and the many other subjects that are related – biomaterials, polymer science, metallurgy, ceramics, nuclear engineering, composites, natural materials. The list goes on.
While the subjects may sound unfamiliar, young people will be all too aware of the impact that these subjects have in real life. For instance:
- Weight saving in vehicles for improved efficiency and environmental impact
- Safe containment of nuclear waste
- Choice of materials to improve elite sports performances
- Effective recycling of materials
- Increased reliability in critical components, from heart valves to aircraft engines
Students of materials science and its allied subjects study materials from the atomic scale through to large manufactured parts, to understand the scientific properties of materials, their engineering performance and how they are processed. With this understanding, materials scientists and engineers can create new materials for new applications and develop existing materials to improve performance.
The nature of the subject combines aspects of both natural sciences and engineering disciplines, and so would appeal to people with interests in any of these subjects. Usually qualification in two of Maths, Physics or Chemistry – or Biology for students interested in Biomaterials are expected.
Typically, undergraduates study for three years for a Bachelor’s degree or four years for a Master’s degree, although some courses allow for a year-long industrial work placement before the final year, which gives the student a valuable insight into the world of work.
When a student of Materials Science and Engineering graduates with their degree, a whole host of opportunities opens up to them. Some stay within academia to continue their research activities and teach the next generation of students. Others progress into industry. Indeed, 100% of the 2015/16 Materials Science and Engineering graduates from the University of Sheffield were in employment of further study within six months of completing their course.
Employers from a broad range of industries, of all shapes and sizes, and all across the world need materials scientists and engineers. The sectors that most frequently employ materials scientists and engineers are:
- Oil and gas
- Nuclear industry
- Armed forces
- Sustainable materials
However, because the courses also teach skills that are highly transferable, some graduates choose different career paths into the financial or legal sectors.
Further, the salary expectations for Materials Science and Engineering graduates are good. In 2016, the average UK salary for Materials Science and Engineering graduates from the University of Sheffield was just over £27,000 – second highest in the Faculty of Engineering.
At this moment in time, manufacturers are optimistic about growth, but are aware that competition will be intense. Therefore, employers want people who can add value to their company, bringing fresh ideas and the ability to adapt their products and processes to maximise competitive advantage.
India is currently the fastest growing G20 economy, and while manufacturing output shows slow but steady growth, there has been a rise in new work from abroad, which recently reflected a buoyant global demand for Indian manufactured products.
Therefore, many opportunities exist for graduates of materials science and engineering and career prospects remain strong.