Metallurgical Engineer Job Description
Metallurgical engineers work with metals and alloys in a variety of industrial and manufacturing settings. They are primarily responsible for analyzing metals and alloys to determine their physical and chemical properties. Metallurical engineers may also contribute to manufacturing by developing new alloys for specific applications, such as lightweight but strong metals for automobile and aircraft parts or conductive metals for electronics. In any setting, this role requires extensive familiarity with chemical and molecular properties of metals, and exceptional analytical abilities.
Metallurgical Engineer Duties and Responsibilities
Although metallurgical engineers focus on many different areas, most share several duties across industries:
Conduct Material Analysis
One of the primary responsibilities of metallurgical engineers is conducting research on materials using a variety of methodologies. Metallurgical engineers may use X-rays to examine a metal’s structure or look at its molecular structure using an electron microscope. Metallurgical engineers also conduct tests to see how metals react to extreme conditions such as high heat, extreme cold, or physical stress.
Design Extraction Methods
Many metallurgical engineers also create and improve methodologies to extract metals from rock and ore, with a focus on ensuring complete extraction without damaging the metal itself. In this aspect of the role, metallurgical engineers may identify opportunities to enhance the efficiency of extraction methods or reduce their environmental impact. These methods may also contribute to efforts to identify metals and alloys within rock.
Devise and Produce Alloys
Metallurgical engineers also devise and produce alloys of multiple metals for use in a variety of industrial projects. Based on client or manufacturing specifications, metallurgical engineers may need to balance a number of factors, such as the amount of stress an alloy can withstand without failing, its resistance to corrosion and temperature-based degradation, and balance of weight and strength.
Monitor Metal Fatigue
For metallurgical engineers who work in manufacturing, assessing metal fatigue can be a central duty. These metallurgical engineers may work closely with fabricators and designers to understand outside stressors that can create fatigue within metals, testing prototypes to make sure they can bear expected loads and don’t contain areas that are prone to failure. They may also engineer solutions to these issues and introduce them into manufacturing and design processes.
Support Quality Control
Metallurgical engineers also support quality control processes in manufacturing, refining, and extraction. This can involve on-site observations of procedures to ensure that workers are adhering to best practices or collecting samples to test within a laboratory setting. In this aspect of the role, metallurgical engineers may also prepare reports and make presentations to decision-makers to support quality enhancement procedures.
Metallurgical Engineer Skills and Qualifications
Metallurgical engineers perform a wide variety of tasks related to extracting metals and manufacturing metal parts. Most workers in this role have at least a bachelor’s degree and the following skills:
- Analytical skills – metallurgical engineers use advanced methods and technologies to research the properties of metals and devise improved techniques for extraction and manufacturing, both of which require strong analytical skills
- Math and science skills – thorough knowledge of mathematical and scientific principles is a necessity in this role, as metallurgical engineers need to make calculations and understand how metals react
- Team coordination – most metallurgical engineers work with teams that can include manufacturing, extracting, and refining personnel, so they should be able to effectively collaborate with these teams
- Problem-solving skills – metallurgical engineers need excellent problem-solving skills to determine innovative ways to improve processes and resolve issues related to manufacturing and design
- Communication skills – written and verbal communication are central to this role, since metallurgical engineers need to communicate with their teams and prepare reports related to their findings
Tools of the Trade
Metallurgical engineers can work in a wide variety of settings, and should be familiar with standard office equipment and software in addition to the following:
- Engineering software (MATLAB, ORIGIN)
- Analytical tools (ImageJ, FactSage)
Metallurgical Engineer Education and Training
Typically, metallurgists need at least a bachelor’s degree in a closely-related field such as metallurgical engineering, metallurgy, or materials science. Many companies prefer to hire candidates with advanced degrees, although some metallurgical engineers attend degree programs after obtaining employment. While there are few opportunities for on-the-job training in this role, most metallurgical engineers continue to learn while they work to keep up with changes in the field.
Metallurgical Engineer Salary and Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) categorizes metallurgical engineers as materials engineers. According to the BLS, materials engineers earned a median annual salary of $94,610 as of May 2017. The highest-paid ten percent of workers in these roles earned more than $149,860 per year, while the lowest-paid earned less than $57,080.
The BLS expects employment of materials engineers to grow at a slower-than-average rate of two percent between 2016 and 2026.
If you’re interested in learning more or starting a career as a metallurgical engineer, we found several resources on the web:
American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers (AIME) – metallurgical engineers can join the AIME or one of its member organizations to connect with others in the field and access industry and professional development resources.
Metallurgical Engineering Handbook by O. P. Gupta – this book presents metallurgical engineering facts and resources in an easy-to-reference question and answer format so that engineers can quickly locate the information they need.
American Society for Metals (ASM) International – ASM International is a professional organization for materials engineers with chapters across the world and a number of technical and industry publications, along with educational resources.
Metallurgy Fundamentals by Daniel A. Brandt and J. C. Warner – read this comprehensive guidebook, which features illustrations and tables that cover topics in metallurgy, to learn about major metal families and their properties.
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