Home page

Materials Engineers

At a Glance

  • Help develop a variety of products
  • Mostly work with metals, ceramics, plastics, and semiconductors
  • Sometimes work with other engineers
  • May work overtime to meet deadlines
  • Have at least a bachelor's degree
  • May need a license

Career summary

Materials engineers develop, process, and test materials used to create a variety of products.

Materials they work with include:

New materials are used to improve or refine products ranging from computer chips to snow skis.

Materials engineers find out the special requirements of the products they are working on. For example, they find out if the product needs to be strong or flexible. As they identify potential materials they carry out laboratory tests to find out which materials meet product requirements.

Materials engineers also create new materials when required to meet product needs. For example, they may try to make a plastic that can withstand high temperatures, but still keep its shape. In the laboratory, engineers manipulate the structure of the molecules in substances to make new substances.

They review and interpret the results from all their tests. They try to discover why a material fails and use that information to make modifications. They also test materials to find new ways to use them. Materials engineers write reports and keep detailed records.

Engineers must take into consideration cost and ability to produce materials quickly and easily. They try to identify several materials that will meet product needs so that manufacturers have options to choose from.

Materials engineers who work with metals are called metallurgical engineers. Those who work with nonmetallic materials, such as glass, clay, and fiberglass, are called ceramic engineers.

Related careers

This career is part of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to materials engineers.

Common work activities

Materials engineers perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, materials engineers:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Materials engineers frequently:

It is important for materials engineers to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for materials engineers to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Materials engineers need to:


Reason and problem solve

Use math and science

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Work with things

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a materials engineer, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Most students prepare for this field by earning a bachelor's degree in materials engineering. Many four-year colleges and universities offer this program of study. You may need between four and five years to complete this program.

Some jobs require a master's or doctoral degree (PhD). For instance, if you are interested in teaching materials engineering, you need a PhD. Also, many students go on to graduate school to specialize in an area of materials engineering.

Work experience

You should consider participating in an engineering internship while in college. An internship is usually part of a four-year degree program. It offers you a chance to apply what you have learned in the classroom to a work situation. It also allows you to build skills and make contacts with people in the field.

In certain fields employers will seek engineers with a few years of experience in a particular or related field.

On-the-job training

New graduates work under the guidance of experienced engineers. In large companies, you may also receive formal classroom training. You work on more difficult tasks and get more independence in your work as you gain knowledge and experience. The length of training varies by employer and your skills. You may receive up to one year of on-the-job training.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum (external link) may be different from your state's graduation requirements (external link). Engineers use math and science frequently. Try to take math classes through Trigonometry and science classes through Physics.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups (PDF file) that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

For entry-level jobs, most employers require applicants to have at least a bachelor's degree in materials engineering. Employers may require a master's degree or higher for research, consulting, and managerial jobs.

Employers prefer to hire materials engineers who are creative and curious. They also look for people who are detail-oriented and analytical. Oral and written communication skills are also important. Employers look for people who can work on a team.

Costs to workers

Some workers may wish to join a professional association, which may have annual dues. Workers may have to pay for continuing education classes to keep up with changes in the field.


Engineers employed in responsible positions in government or in firms offering services to the public, or who stamp their work as being done by an engineer, must be licensed by the Washington State Department of Licensing.

Getting a license as an engineer-in-training requires:

Professional engineer licensing requirements include:

Engineers who wish to be licensed as professional engineers must pay $65 to the State for an initial national exam application. After State approval, engineers must pay for the registration examination from the National Council of Examiners for Engineers and Surveyors. The license renewal fee is $116 every two years. Not all engineers in Washington must be licensed.

For licensing information, contact:

Washington State Department of Licensing
Board of Registration for Professional Engineers and
Land Surveyors Licensing Program (external link)

PO Box 9025
Olympia, WA 98507-9025

#removed EIT fee statement 1/30/18 lh.

For information on testing, contact:

National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (external link)
PO Box 1686
Clemson, SC 29633-1686

#Checked licensing info, added CTW & updated fees, 2/14/11, cj. Changed renewal fee to $116 from $76 3/18/13 cj. Updated NCEES ph number; updated natl exam fee from $265 to $350, rest ok, 3/2/15 cj. No changes for 2016 update, cj. Removed specific natl exam fee; rest same, 4/10/19 cj.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Currently, there is no specific statewide wage information available for materials engineers.

Materials engineers (SOC 17-2131)

Pay Period
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $36.74 $45.23 $56.27 $65.66 $82.20
Monthly $6,367 $7,838 $9,752 $11,379 $14,245
Yearly $76,415 $94,091 $117,043 $136,577 $170,963
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $22.87 $26.79 $32.16 $37.99 $46.72
Monthly $3,963 $4,643 $5,573 $6,584 $8,097
Yearly $47,578 $55,713 $66,888 $79,023 $97,175
    Vancouver Hourly $29.82 $35.21 $43.59 $52.73 $62.71
Monthly $5,168 $6,102 $7,554 $9,138 $10,868
Yearly $62,020 $73,249 $90,648 $109,688 $130,438
United States Hourly $27.46 $34.60 $44.42 $57.39 $71.21
Monthly $4,759 $5,996 $7,698 $9,946 $12,341
Yearly $57,110 $71,960 $92,390 $119,360 $148,110

Wages vary by employer and the area of the country. The engineer's level of experience, education, and responsibility all affect wages.

Materials engineers who work full time usually receive benefits. Typical benefits include sick leave, paid vacation, and health insurance. Some employers also provide a retirement plan.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Materials Engineers (SOC 17-2131)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 1,002 4.4% 16.1% 80
    Benton and Franklin Counties 62 3.2% 15.0% 4
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 33 18.2% 15.2% 4
    King County 437 3.0% 19.6% 33
    Pierce County 53 22.6% 15.2% 6
    Snohomish County 369 0.3% 12.4% 26
    Spokane County 26 7.7% 13.9% 2
United States 27,700 0.0% 5.2% 1,700

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

This occupation will see little to no growth. Materials engineers will be needed to design uses for new materials in industries, such as aerospace manufacturing, and in industries focused on new medical or scientific products. However most materials engineers work in areas of manufacturing that are not growing.

Job openings will occur as more experienced materials engineers get promoted or retire.

Other resources

American Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) (external link)
(This website provides a list of engineering-related programs accredited by ABET)
415 North Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
American Coatings Association (external link)
1500 Rhode Island Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20005
American Composites Manufacturers Association (external link)
2000 N. 15th Street, Ste. 250
Arlington, VA 22201
American Concrete Institute (external link)
38888 Country Club Drive
Farmington Hills, MI 48331
ASM International--The Materials Information Society (external link)
9639 Kinsman Road
Materials Park, OH 44073
Discover Engineering (external link)
eGFI - Dream Up the Future (external link)
Engineer Girl! (external link)
National Academy of Engineering
Nano Science and Technology Institute (external link)
Nanooze (external link)
National Academy of Engineering (external link)
500 Fifth Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (external link)
National Science Foundation (external link)
2415 Eisenhower Avenue
Alexandria, Virginia 2231
National Society of Professional Engineers (external link)
1420 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering (external link)
21680 Gateway Center Drive, Suite 300
Diamond Bar, CA 91765-2454
Society of Plastics Engineers (external link)
100 Reserve Rd, Suite B310
Danbury, CT 06810
Society of Women Engineers (external link)
130 East Randolph Street, Suite 3500
Chicago, IL 60601
Technology Student Association (external link)
1904 Association Drive
Reston, VA 20191-1540
The Minerals, Metals, and Materials Society (external link)
5700 Corporate Drive, Suite 750
Pittsburgh, PA 15237
Washington State Science & Engineering Fair (external link)


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupation

Strong Interest Inventory

Holland occupational cluster