Materials scientists are concerned with the relationship between the structure and properties of materials.
Eduardo Kamenetzky, a senior research scientist at Cytec Industries, explains, "The central concept of materials science is relating the microstructure of a material to the properties you want it to have. By working with the microstructure, you can tailor the central properties of that material." Materials scientists are generally employed by industry or in laboratories where the focus is on developing product-related technologies.
Materials science is one of the hottest career areas in science, but to think of it as a single career is misleading. Perhaps one reason for its popularity is that it unites applications from many scientific disciplines that contribute to the development of new materials.
- Chemists play a predominant role in materials science because chemistry provides information about the structure and composition of materials as well as the processes to apply and synthesize them.
- Physicists will find that most jobs involve applying condensed matter concepts to complex and multiphase media. Jobs in materials physics are really jobs in condensed matter physics applied to materials that are of interest to manufactures.
Materials science overlaps to a large extent with polymer science resulting in many new polymeric materials being developed in this century. Materials scientists are employed by companies whose products are made of metals, ceramics, and rubber, for example; they work in the coatings (developing new varieties of paint) and biologics industries (designing materials that are compatible with human tissues for prosthetics and implants).
Other applications of materials science include studies of superconducting materials, graphite materials, integrated-circuit chips, and fuel cells. Materials science is so interdisciplinary that preparation in a number of related areas is important.
The materials science field is made up of people with various educational backgrounds. Some companies are more interested in hiring Ph.D. candidates. However, most projects in materials science are team efforts, and a team can include technicians, engineers, physicists, and materials scientists with B.S. or M.S. degrees.
Salary Information 2018
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the salary of a Materials Scientist in 2018 was highly variable. The bottom 10% of earners made less than $52,560, the median salary was $99,800, and the top 10% of earners made more than $159,970. This variation is due in part to the education level one achieves, individual experience, and the industry one decides to work in.
Want to know more?
- Bureau of Labor Statistics-Chemists and Materials Scientists
- Physics Today-Careers in Materials
- American Chemical Society-Materials Science
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Information retrieved from Bureau of Labor Statistics: Chemists and Materials Scientists, Physics Today: Careers in Materials and ACS: Careers & the Chemical Sciences.
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