Materials engineers
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Overview
Materials engineers develop, process, and test materials used to create a wide range of products, from computer chips and aircraft wings to golf clubs and biomedical devices. They study the properties and structures of metals, ceramics, plastics, composites, nanomaterials (extremely small substances), and other substances in order to create new materials that meet certain mechanical, electrical, and chemical requirements.
Predicted employment growth
Over the next decade, jobs for materials engineers are expected to grow by 2%, and should have about 1,900 job openings a year.
Safety from automation
Materials engineers are less likely to be automated than 87% of other careers.
Workforce size
Materials engineers, with 27,000 workers, form a smaller workforce than 66% of careers.
Education
About 75% of materials engineers have at least a bachelor's degree.
Education attained by materials engineers
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Context: workers with bachelor's degrees
More materials engineers have bachelor's degrees than 83% of other careeers.
Salaries
The median (middle) salary for materials engineers is higher than 90% of all other jobs' middle salaries. The graph shows inflation-adjusted salaries for most materials engineers.
This job's median $92KAll jobs' median $39K$94K$38K20142015201620172018$0$50K$100K$150K$200K
Context: Median Salary
Gender
Women account for 13% of materials engineers -- that's a smaller percentage than 73% of other jobs.
Gender of materials engineers
Men
Women
Context: Salary inequity
For each career, we compared the median (middle) men's salary to the median women's salary. Women materials engineers actually earned more than men -- a very rare occurance among careers!
Race/Origin
About 23% of materials engineers are minority, and 18% are foreign-born.
Race/origin of materials engineers
White
Black
Pacific Islander
Hispanic
Asian
American Indian
Multiracial
Other
Context: Foreign-born workers (18%)
Where are the most jobs?
We ranked the number of jobs in Materials Engineers per thousand workers in each state, DC, and Puerto Rico. The darker the blue, the higher the job density.
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
Job benefits
Employer or union-sponsored pension plans are offered to 64% of materials engineers, and 91% have company-sponsored health insurance (14% have dependents enrolled in their employer's health plan).
Employer-provided health coverage for materials engineers
100% premiums covered
Partial premiums covered
Plan with no cost sharing
No health insurance
Top college degrees
Here are the top college degrees held by the 73% of people in this job who have at least a bachelor's degree. Some of degrees may link to multiple programs due to the way Census classifies college majors. Click on a program to learn more about career opportunities for people who major in that field.
The downside
Some jobs are more stressful than others, and some are just plain dangerous. The following list gives the percentages of materials engineers who report hazardous or difficult situations typically occurring at least once a week.
  • Time Pressure (57%)
  • Responsible for Others' Health and Safety (49%)
  • Consequence of Error (37%)
  • Exposed to Hazardous Conditions (34%)
  • Exposed to Contaminants (31%)
SOURCES:24.0 O*NET
Salary and diversity
Salary overview
What do materials engineers earn?

In this section, we want to give you a clear idea of what you can expect to earn in this career. We use two sources of data here: the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which asks employers to classify their workforce and to report salaries using the SOC-specialty level of reporting, and the American Community Survey (ACS), which asks people to classify their jobs using the broad classifications that ididio uses for career profiles, and to self-report their salaries. For some jobs, the differences in survey approaches between BLS and ACS can paint a very different end-picture. Whenever possible, we provide data from both sources.

The BLS-compiled salary data is reported by companies for their employees. This data excludes self-employed workers. We first show the distribution of salaries for materials engineers, and then we show how the middle (median) salary for materials engineers compares to the BLS-computed median salaries of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for materials engineers (BLS Salary Data)
$92K$0$50K$100K$150K
Context: Median salaries across careers (BLS Salary Data)
$92K$0$50K$100K$150K
We compiled household data from the ACS to determine the salaries that people working at least 35 hours a week report themselves to earn. Unlike the BLS estimates, this data includes self-employed wages. We first show the full salary distribution for all materials engineers, and then we show how the median (middle) salary for materials engineers compares to the median ACS-reported salary of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for materials engineers (ACS Salary Data)
$81K$0$50K$100K$150K
Context: Median salaries across careers (ACS Salary Data)
$81K$0$50K$100K$150K
Employers and salary
A look at employers and corresponding salaries
The donut shares the break-down of workers by employer type, and following we show the salary distributions for these workers based on those employer types. For some careers, the salaries can be vastly different between private, government, and self-employment. As with our salary overview, we view the both the BLS economists' salary profiles and the household-reported salaries from ACS to get a thorough understanding of where materials engineers work and for what salary. We have the great faith in the accuracy of economist-vetted BLS data; however, the BLS restrictions on which employers are surveyed skews the data a bit (read more in the sources), and the ACS responses provide different and useful categorizations of employers and salaries.
Employers of Materials engineers (ACS)
Private for-profit (95.2%)
Private not-for-profit (0.8%)
Local government (0.2%)
State government (0.3%)
Federal government (1.9%)
Self-employed incorporated (1.1%)
Self-employed not incorporated (0.4%)
Working without pay (0.0%)
Distribution: Salaries of materials engineers by type of employer (ACS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type calculated by aggregating individual household survey responses.
$81K$83K$81K$74K$0$50,000$100,000$150,000Federal governmentPrivate not-for-profitPrivate for-profitAll
Distribution: Salaries of materials engineers by type of employer (BLS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type as reported by BLS based on large employer-focused surveys. We note that smaller employer categories are not included by BLS.
$92K$118K$101K$92K$66K$0$50,000$100,000$150,000$200,000Federal governmentState governmentLocal governmentPrivateAll
Age and career advancement
Salary growth for materials engineers

The biggest take-away from the following two charts is the relationship between salary and experience that we can infer from age. Does this job seem to attract especially younger or older workers? Does it reward experience?

Take a minute a look at how much you might expect your salary to increase with each five years' experience, as well as how the numbers working in this career changes. We only provide this data when there are enough consistent ACS survey responses to allow a reasonable margin of error, so for some careers you will see gaps in our reporting of salary by age.

$93K$90K$92K$92K$68K$78K$89K$80K$53K$0$50K$100K$150KSalary distribution20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64
02K4K6KNumber employed20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Gender and Equity
Materials engineers and gender

With 13% women, this occupation has a lower percentage of women than 73% of careers.

Context: Women in the workforce
13%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Gender of Materials engineers
Men (87%)
Women (13%)
Distribution: Salaries by gender

Although nationally the median (middle) salary for all full-time male workers in the US exceeds the full-time median salary for women by 20%, in materials engineers, the median salary for women is 0% higher than the median salary for men. There are only 19 other jobs in which the median women's salary exceeds the median men's salary. This chart shows you the salary range for most workers by gender.

$81K$81K$0$50K$100K$150KWomenMen

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Race/Origin
Race and origin of materials engineers

The representation of minority and foreign-born workers is quite different between careers, and the relative pay of those workers also varies significantly between careers. There is a higher percentage of minority materials engineers than for 64% of other careers. This career hires a larger percentage of foreign-born workers than most other careers.

Race/origin of materials engineers
White (77% )
Asian (14% )
Black (6% )
Multiracial (2% )
Hispanic (1% )
Other (1% )
American Indian (0% )
Context: Representation of minorities in the workforce
23%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Context: Representation of foreign-born workers
18%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Distribution: Salaries for materials engineers by race/origin

For some careers, there is a pay disparity depending on race or origin, though this is not prevalent. We calculate standard errors for all of our calculations, and when the error is high we do not show results. Therefore, for some jobs will have omitted race/origin categories.

$74K$80K$83K$91K$0$50K$100K$150KOtherWhiteBlackAsian
Distribution: Salaries for materials engineers by nativity
$79K$91K$0$50K$100K$150KAll native citizensAll foreign-born

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Pathways to this career
Education requirements and salary
Education attained by materials engineers

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), materials engineers typically hold a bachelor's degree.

Sometimes the typical education identified by the BLS differs a bit from the reality of the how much education current workers actually have. The donut shows the education level held by people currently working as materials engineers as reported in responses to the American Community Survey. Following, we investigate whether education level influences salary for materials engineers.

Education attained by materials engineers
None
High School
Some College
Associate's Degree
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Deg/Doct
Doctorate
Details: Education and training recommended for materials engineers

Students interested in studying materials engineering should take high school courses in math, such as algebra, trigonometry, and calculus; in science, such as biology, chemistry, and physics; and in computer programming.

Entry-level jobs as a materials engineer require a bachelor’s degree. Bachelor’s degree programs include classroom and laboratory work focusing on engineering principles.

Some colleges and universities offer a 5-year program leading to both a bachelor’s and master’s degree. A graduate degree allows an engineer to work as a postsecondary teacher or to do research and development.

Many colleges and universities offer internships and cooperative programs in partnership with industry. In these programs, students gain practical experience while completing their education.

Many engineering programs are accredited by ABET. Some employers prefer to hire candidates who have graduated from an accredited program. A degree from an ABET-accredited program is usually necessary to become a licensed professional engineer.

Details: Licensing and certification recommended for materials engineers

Licensure for materials engineers is not as common as it is for other engineering occupations, nor it is required for entry-level positions. A Professional Engineering (PE) license, which allows for higher levels of leadership and independence, can be acquired later in one’s career. Licensed engineers are called professional engineers (PEs). A PE can oversee the work of other engineers, sign off on projects, and provide services directly to the public. State licensure generally requires

  • A degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program
  • A passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
  • Relevant work experience, typically at least 4 years
  • A passing score on the Professional Engineering (PE) exam

The initial FE exam can be taken after earning a bachelor’s degree. Engineers who pass this exam are commonly called engineers in training (EITs) or engineer interns (EIs). After meeting work experience requirements, EITs and EIs can take the second exam, called the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE).

Each state issues its own licenses. Most states recognize licensure from other states, as long as the licensing state’s requirements meet or exceed their own licensure requirements. Several states require continuing education for engineers to keep their licenses.

Certification in the field of metallography, the science and art of dealing with the structure of metals and alloys, is available through ASM International and other materials science organizations.

Additional training in fields directly related to metallurgy and materials’ properties, such as corrosion or failure analysis, is available through ASM International.

Distribution: Salary by education level

What level of education is truly needed for materials engineers? Below we see the distribution of materials engineers salaries based on the education attained. These comparisons are based on all survey responses by those who identified themselves as materials engineers, and are not intended as a statistical analysis of salary differences that would correct for non-educational factors that could contribute to high or low earnings.

$76K$66K$71K$69K$79K$95K$114K$0$50K$100K$150K$200KNone (1%)High School (5%)Some College (11%)Associate's Degree (8%)Bachelor's Degree (51%)Master's Degree (18%)Doctorate (6%)
Bachelor's degree pathways
College majors held by materials engineers

This table shows the college majors held by people working as materials engineers. Select any degree to see detailed information. We are able to connect careers to degrees using the American Community Survey (ACS), and their degrees are defined a little differently from our programs, which are based on standard CIP classifications. Therefore, selecting some degrees will lead to a selection of CIP-level programs from which to choose.

If you see "**" before the name of a degree/program, that means this field is one that the Department of Education believes is preparatory for this career. However, you can see from this list that those recommendations are far from your only path to this job!

Degree
Select any title to learn more about that degree
Percentage of Materials engineers with this degree
Salary for all majors
Salary distribution (across jobs). Showing 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
Final education level of all people with this major
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Gender
Gender of people this bachelor's degree
Men
Women
The link between degrees and careers
The link between degrees and careers

With the following "sankey" diagram, you can follow the top ten bachelor's degrees held by people working as materials engineers, and then, in turn, you can see the 10 occupations that hire the most of each degree's graduates. This visualization links fields of studies and careers, suggesting both similar careers and options for degrees. The full list of bachelor's degrees held by materials engineers given in the previous section reminds us that there are many paths to these careers beyond what we can summarize here.

Switching Careers
Most common new jobs
The most common next careers for materials engineers

What jobs will most materials engineers hold next year?

The data in this chart comes from person interviews for the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. The survey interviews households eight times over a two-year period, allowing us a glimpse into how people move from job to job. You can see more details from the results of the survey in our last tab in this section, and you can read about our methodology in our source descriptions.

Here we see all of the jobs that at least 1% of materials engineers reported holding in their second year's survey. Is your future job on this list?

Materials engineersEngineers (specialized areas)Mechanical engineersEngineering techniciansApplications and systems software developersDraftersManagers (specialized areas)Inspectors, testers, sorters, samplers, and weighersChemical techniciansChemical engineersPhysical scientists (specialized areas)Electrical and electronics engineersAerospace engineersCredit analystsPetroleum, mining and geological engineersFood preparation workersMarketing and sales managersProduction workersStock clerks and order fillersIndustrial engineersArchitectural and engineering managersStationary engineers and boiler operators
Lateral career moves
Lateral job transitions for materials engineers

A lateral career transition is a move to a job with similar pay and responsibilities. A move to such a job can offer a change of pace without an increase in stress or a decrease in pay. The following table simply identifies all 9 jobs which were held by at least 1% of survey respondents before working as materials engineers as well as 1% of respondents after working as materials engineers. Select a row to investigate the job's full description and determine if it truly offers an opportunity for a lateral transition.

Lateral-move careers for materials engineers
Annual openings
How many openings are expected each year?
Salary
Salary distribution for people in this occupation. Range is 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Gender
Men
Women
Applications and systems software developers
118,900
$0$200K$96K
Managers (specialized areas)
84,000
$0$200K$72K
Inspectors, testers, sorters, samplers, and weighers
52,700
$0$200K$39K
Engineering technicians
40,100
$0$200K$54K
Production workers
37,400
$0$200K$32K
Electrical and electronics engineers
23,100
$0$200K$93K
Industrial engineers
21,600
$0$200K$77K
Mechanical engineers
21,200
$0$200K$83K
Engineers (specialized areas)
10,900
$0$200K$90K
Full prior and next career listings
Prior and next careers for materials engineers: full listings

What do people typically do before and after they work as materials engineers? Here are the full lists of all jobs that at least 1% of materials engineers surveyed reported as holding a year earlier or later.

Choose which type of transition to view
Prior jobs
Next jobs
Prior careers for materials engineers
Annual openings
How many openings are expected each year?
Salary
Salary distribution for people in this occupation. Range is 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Gender
Men
Women
Percentage Transitioning
What percentage worked in this job the previous year?
General and operations managers
210,700
$0$200K$67K
2.9%
Maintenance and repair workers
155,500
$0$200K$42K
1.8%
First-line supervisors of office and administrative support workers
153,100
$0$200K$48K
1.3%
Applications and systems software developers
118,900
$0$200K$96K
8.1%
Management analysts
87,200
$0$200K$76K
1.8%
Managers (specialized areas)
84,000
$0$200K$72K
2.0%
Inspectors, testers, sorters, samplers, and weighers
52,700
$0$200K$39K
1.8%
Construction equipment operators
48,300
$0$200K$46K
1.5%
Machinists
40,900
$0$200K$46K
1.9%
Engineering technicians
40,100
$0$200K$54K
7.4%
Production workers
37,400
$0$200K$32K
1.8%
Civil engineers
25,900
$0$200K$81K
2.5%
Electrical and electronics engineers
23,100
$0$200K$93K
3.3%
Industrial engineers
21,600
$0$200K$77K
2.2%
Mechanical engineers
21,200
$0$200K$83K
6.3%
Engineers (specialized areas)
10,900
$0$200K$90K
12.0%
Materials engineers
1,900
$0$200K$81K
30.1%
Emergency management directors
900
$0$200K$65K
1.3%
No occupation
3.4%
Read about materials engineers
Responsibilities and activities
Responsibilities and activities

Materials engineers typically do the following:

  • Plan and evaluate new projects, consulting with other engineers and managers as necessary
  • Prepare proposals and budgets, analyze labor costs, write reports, and perform other managerial tasks
  • Supervise the work of technologists, technicians, and other engineers and scientists
  • Design and direct the testing of processing procedures
  • Monitor how materials perform and evaluate how they deteriorate
  • Determine causes of product failure and develop ways of overcoming such failure
  • Evaluate technical specifications and economic factors relating to the design objectives of processes or products
  • Evaluate the impact of materials processing on the environment

Materials engineers create and study materials at the atomic level. They use computers to understand and model the characteristics of materials and their components. They solve problems in several different engineering fields, such as mechanical, chemical, electrical, civil, nuclear, and aerospace.

Materials engineers may specialize in understanding specific types of materials. The following are examples of types of materials engineers:

Ceramic engineers develop ceramic materials and the processes for making them into useful products, from high-temperature rocket nozzles to glass for LCD flat-panel displays.

Composites engineers develop materials with special, engineered properties for applications in aircraft, automobiles, and related products.

Metallurgical engineers specialize in metals, such as steel and aluminum, usually in alloyed form with additions of other elements to provide specific properties.

Plastics engineers develop and test new plastics, known as polymers, for new applications.

Semiconductor processing engineers apply materials science and engineering principles to develop new microelectronic materials for computing, sensing, and related applications.

Personality and skills
Personality and skills

Can you see yourself in the ranks of materials engineers? Here are the skills and traits that could lead to success.

Analytical skills
Materials engineers often work on projects related to other fields of engineering. They must determine how materials will be used and how they must be structured to withstand different conditions.
Math skills
Materials engineers use the principles of calculus and other advanced topics in math for analysis, design, and troubleshooting in their work.
Problem-solving skills
Materials engineers must understand the relationship between materials’ structures, their properties, how they are made, and how these factors affect the products they are used to make. They must also figure out why a product might have failed, design a solution, and then conduct tests to make sure that the product does not fail again. These skills involve being able to identify root causes when many factors could be at fault.
Speaking skills
While working with technicians, technologists, and other engineers, materials engineers must state concepts and directions clearly. When speaking with managers, these engineers must also communicate engineering concepts to people who may not have an engineering background.
Writing skills
Materials engineers must write plans and reports clearly so that people without a materials engineering background can understand the concepts.
Trends in employment
Salary trends
Distribution and trends: Salaries for materials engineers
Choose actual dollars or inflation-adjusted dollars to view
Adjusted for inflation
Historic dollars

In 2018, the median (middle) salary for materials engineers was higher than 90% of all other jobs' middle salaries. This graphic shows how the salary distribution (adjusted for inflation) has changed for this job over recent years. The gray line, as a comparison, shows the median salary of all US workers.

This job's median $92KAll jobs' median $39K$89K$38K200420052006200720082009201020112012201320142015201620172018$0$50K$100K$150K$200K
Projected versus actual employment
Exploring actual employment trends versus projected trends

Currently, jobs for materials engineers are anticipated to grow by 2% over the next decade; 74% of jobs are projected to grow more.

The projected employment for materials engineers is the best guess created by talented economists and statisticians at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, as you look through several careers you'll notice that the projections are heavily influenced by past performance and may miss current trends. No one can tell the future, and as new information and better techniques are developed, actual counts and future projections may change. Here's a glimpse at the actual counts versus the projections over time.

2000201020202030010,00020,00030,00040,000
Employment counts
Actual measured employment
BLS 10-year predictions
Variation by state
Employment
State-by-state employment numbers

Some careers tend to be centered in specific parts of the country. For example, most jobs in fashion are in New York or California. Let's see if your dream job is easy to find in your dream location! We have a few choices for viewing the data that can help you get a full employment picture.

Job density versus job count

Which states hire the most materials engineers? We wonder if that's a fair question since states come in all sizes, so instead let's start with the question of which states have the highest density of people working as materials engineers. You can choose to view the number of jobs per state if you prefer.

BLS vs ACS data

This map defaults to employment information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which provides job totals carefully compiled for accuracy and with a primary focus on how employers describe their workers. The BLS job totals do not count self-employed workers. We've also compiled totals using the Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS) which are based on how workers describe themselves. Sometimes ACS results are quite a bit different from the employer-based BLS data.

Choose the metric to review
Jobs per 1000 working
Number of jobs
Use this data source
BLS
Number of Materials Engineers per 1,000 workers (BLS)
Select a state to see local area details
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0.00.10.20.30.40.5
Salary
Salaries by state
Let's get a feel for where materials engineers earn the highest salaries. There are several choices for which data we consider and how we view that data, and each can lead to different conclusions, so please read on...
Median salary versus state ratio

We use two methods to compare salaries across states:

  • In-state comparisons: the ratio of median (middle) salaries for materials engineers compared to the median salary for all people working in each state, or
  • Median salary: the unaltered median salaries for materials engineers.

We hope the ratio allows perspective about how salaries may compare to the regional cost-of-living.

BLS vs ACS data

We have two sources for statewide salary information with important distinctions. The BLS data is created by surveying companies, missing individuals who are self-employed or work for smaller companies. The ACS data is compiled from multi-faceted household surveys and may reflect the inconsistencies that people may have in reporting information.

Choose the metric to review
In-state comparisions
Median salary
Use this data source
BLS
Median salary ratio: Materials Engineers to all workers (BLS)
The darkest shading corresponds to states in which materials engineers earn the highest salary when compared to other jobs in the state. We think this ratio might be a better indicator than the actual salary for your buying power as a state resident.
Select a state to see local area details
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
0.01.02.03.04.0
Compare to similar jobs

If this job interests you, then use the dots below to find other jobs you might like. The dots closer to the top represent jobs that are like Materials engineers (shown with a blue star). Look for the dots to the right to find the best salaries! (We pulled salary data from BLS, and they give a top salary value of just over $200K to protect privacy, so our graph would go much higher if the salaries were not top coded.)

How should the career similarity be computed

There are a number of ways to measure the similarity of jobs, here are a few we provide:

  • Interests: Also known as a Holland Code - Are you a thinker? A helper? What fits your personality?
  • Environment: Are there hazards? Will you be comfortable? Will it be stressful?
  • Knowledge: What do you need to know the most about?
  • Physical Abilities: Do you need to especially strong or coordinated?
Choose the similarity measure to compare careers
Interests
Environment
Knowledge
Physical Abilities
Jobs that are similar by Interests and Salary (All education levels)
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