Q: I am an undeclared student entering my sophomore year of my university. I have always enjoyed physics, science and chemistry. I have thought about declaring engineering as my major. I am not sure what type of engineering careers are promising. I’ve seen a few job postings for Materials Engineers. These postings have interested me. What types of companies typically hire this type of engineer? What is the job outlook for these roles? What do hiring managers look for when hiring Materials Engineers? If I don’t land a job after college, my parents will be very upset. I want a job that I enjoy though.
A: Materials science is a diverse field that involves creating and improving materials such as metals, polymers, and nanomaterials to name a few. There are many incredible opportunities which will allow you to continue to use the skills that you have learned in physics and chemistry. You are fortunate to have an interest in this area.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job opportunities for engineers are expected to be quite good. Starting salaries are typically higher for engineers, as compared to other college graduate degrees. For more information, visit http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos027.htm.
I consulted Steve Milt, Chief Operating Officer at DSA Detection in North Andover, Massachusetts. Milt recommends, “To get started in your career it will be important to choose an industry that interests you. Traditional employers for materials engineers include aerospace and electronics companies, but the list extends broadly to medical devices and biotech, green technology and companies like mine, DSA Detection, that are focused on the security industry.”
Milt further offers, “Finding relevant internships and summer jobs to build a track record is an important first step. Select an industry and find a paid or unpaid job during the summer or during the school year. Treat it like your most important class. If your first job isn’t a great fit, that’s ok, because materials engineers can transfer across industries somewhat more easily than other types of engineers. Employers take a chance every time we hire a new employee, so we look for markers of commitment and career progression, like completing projects with business value and receiving increasingly challenging work assignments. These internships and summer jobs are an important chance to make yourself highly marketable at graduation time.”
Many materials engineers choose to pursue advanced degrees as they progress through their career. Milt explains, “If you establish yourself as a high performer, your future company may be willing to pay for all or part of your advanced degree. At DSA Detection, high performer means understanding project goals, completing tasks on schedule, showing good communication skills, all while being a fun person to work with. As an engineer you will build good analytical and decision-making skills, which may lead to greater responsibility and management opportunities down the road.”
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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
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