Metallurgical engineering deals with the development, design, technology, and implementation of processes that transform raw materials into usable goods that enhance the quality of life. Processes can be mechanical, chemical, or physical in nature. It can be found in a variety of sectors such as aerospace, energy, and manufacturing. This branch includes a number of specialties, including power generation, chemical bearings, material sciences, and fatigue analysis and design.
A key focus of metallurgical engineering is in the production of titanium. Titanium is used in a variety of applications ranging from space exploration to weaponry. Many varieties of titanium are formed at the current mines around the world; however, there is still much more potential left for development. As a result, many engineers are applying their skills to the exploration and development of more ore sources. In addition to this mining, there is also a great deal of effort being put into the development of new materials for use in medical applications and other industries.
One of the most important areas of focus for most metallurgical engineers is the development of new materials, which are stronger, lighter, faster, and more durable than the materials of the past. Due to this focus on development, there has been an increased focus on training and certifications for personnel who work within the industry. The certification process is important in ensuring that workers are competent to handle materials as they are designed. There are currently three levels of metallurgical engineering certification, based upon the degree of advancement within the field.
To be a qualified metallurgical engineer, a person must first achieve an accredited associate’s degree. After graduation, the individual may enroll in a two-year or four-year university program at a community college or four-year college. The length of time to complete a four-year program is dependent on whether a student attends classes part-time or full-time. Many metallurgical engineering schools also offer internship programs.
Another focus of research at many campuses is the design and manufacture of new materials. New construction and metallurgical engineering have both created and advanced materials for industries such as construction, automotive, marine, power generation, oil and gas, and geothermal.
The goal of these industries is to produce products that are stronger, lighter, faster, and more durable than those that were available in the past. These advances have created new job markets for metallurgical engineering graduates. Some careers, such as nuclear engineers, bioengineers, and materials scientists, actually start out as metallurgical engineers. As the demand for other types of engineers increases, so will the need for qualified metallurgical engineering graduates.
A typical day at a metallurgical engineering facility includes working in the lab performing scientific experiments and study. Students might work one on one with a professor in the field of metallurgy, or in large groups helping to design and test materials. They might also be responsible for testing finished products to ensure that they’re strong and will withstand the harshest environments.
After graduating from a metallurgical engineering program, a student can look forward to employment with a variety of businesses. Career choices include designing components for machinery at factories and laboratories, manufacturing mechanical and electronic parts, welding metal together, and analyzing natural resources for their strength and durability. Many graduates seek positions in government agencies or petroleum exploration companies.
Because of the growing demand for these specialized engineers, the education level required to achieve a metallurgical engineering career can often be quite lofty. Graduates must demonstrate an ability to perform both mechanical and chemical engineering duties.
Those who complete the program and receive their associate’s or bachelor’s degree in metallurgy are likely to be well qualified for advancement to upper management positions. Some graduates seek positions in academia or with environmental consulting firms, while others return to the field to find that the skills they developed in college have useful practical applications.