What Is Material Engineering and Why Is It Important?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 29 October 2022 | Published 27 September 2021

Updated 29 October 2022

Published 27 September 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you love chemistry, physics and mathematics, a career in material engineering may be right for you. This field of work involves creating new substances or changing the physical and chemical composition of existing ones to improve their properties. Understanding what material engineering is and what it takes to get into this profession would help you better decide if this is the right career for you.

What is material engineering?

Material engineering is a field of work that involves investigating the properties of substances to create new materials with enhanced chemical and physical qualities. Engineers in this field are also involved in optimising production processes and making eco-friendly materials.

The work of material engineers has a tremendous impact on modern life, although most people rarely notice it. For example, material engineers are responsible for creating alloys with lightweight and high-strength properties that are used in the aerospace and automotive industries. Smartphone screens, boat propellers, heat furnaces pipings and foil food wrappings are also products of material engineering.

Related: What Does an Engineer Do? With Steps for Getting Started

What do material engineers do?

Here are some typical duties that material engineers have:

  • Investigate, understand and control how substances behave and interact with other materials

  • Develop and test new materials

  • Develop better techniques for processing different materials

  • Identify optimal ways of using existing materials

  • Assess the health and environmental impacts of both new and existing materials

Related: How To Become an Environmental Engineer (With Career FAQs)

Benefits of being in material engineering

Here are some of the benefits of being a material engineer:

International career opportunities

Material engineers are in demand all over the world, so you will be able to work almost anywhere you desire if you have the right qualifications and expertise.

High income

Material engineering is one of the most lucrative fields in the world. With its many real-world applications, this field of research attracts investments and research grants from government agencies and large corporations alike.

Related: 14 Types of Engineering Jobs (With Salary Information)

What is the difference between material science and material engineering?

Material engineers and material scientists have similar training and qualifications. However, they are charged with a different set of duties. Here are some differences between the 2:

  • Focus: Material scientists are primarily focused on research, whilst material engineers are focused on the real-world application of this research.

  • Work environment: Material scientists are often confined to laboratories, where they study and perform tests. Manufacturing engineers, however, can work in a variety of different locations, from a laboratory to a manufacturing plant.

How to become a material engineer

Here are some steps you can take to become a material engineer:

1. Get a bachelor's degree

You need at least a bachelor's degree in material engineering, material science or other related engineering disciplines to be a material engineer.

2. Do an internship

Whilst you are completing your studies, attempt to secure an internship in material engineering to gain some hands-on industry experience. An internship will also help you decide which speciality within the field you might be more suitable for.

3. Get a professional engineering licence

To work as a material engineer you will have to get professionally certified by passing the following examinations:

  • Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam

  • Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam

4. Get a mentor

After passing these exams, budding material engineers will have to undergo 4 years of training under a professional engineer.

Once that's done, you may apply to the Professional Engineers Board (PEB) for your official certificate. Do note that you are required to apply within five years of passing the PE exam.

Related: What Is An Automation Engineer? (With Necessary Skills)

How much can you earn as a material engineer?

The average salary of a material engineer in Singapore is $5,409 per month.

Specialities within material engineering

Material engineering can be broken down into several specialities. Here are some examples:

  • Composites engineering: Composites engineers develop composite materials that can be used in the production processes of different industries.

  • Ceramics engineering: Ceramics engineers develop materials that can be used in high-temperature environments. Their work has applications in the military, as well as in the telecommunications and healthcare industries.

  • Metallurgical engineering: Metallurgical engineers create alloys that have better properties than their constituent elements. These alloys are used to make a range of products within a wide variety of industries.

  • Plastic engineering: Plastic engineers investigate ways to make plastic production more efficient and cost-effective.

Related: 9 Essential Engineering Skills to Include in Your Resume

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organizations mentioned in this article is affiliated with Indeed. Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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