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Engineering design

Materials engineer

Materials engineers research the behaviour of materials used in industry to make them stronger, lighter and more hard-wearing.

Annual Salary

£20,000 to £45,000

Average UK salary in 2022 was £33,200
(source Office for National Statistics)

Working hours

39 to 41 a week

You could work: evenings; occasionally

Future employment

There will be 2.4% more Materials engineer jobs in 2027.

Day to day tasks

In your day-to-day duties you could:

  • research new ways to combine materials
  • analyse test data, using computer modelling software
  • develop prototypes for new products
  • design manufacturing processes that use new materials
  • investigate the reasons behind component or structural failures
  • supervise a team of technicians
  • write reports

Working environment

You could work at a manufacturing plant, in a laboratory or in an office.

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • an apprenticeship

You'll normally need a foundation degree, higher national diploma or degree.

Relevant subjects include:

  • materials engineering
  • materials science or technology
  • applied chemistry
  • applied physics

You could also take a degree course specialising in one group of materials or their commercial use, for example metallurgy, polymer science, biomaterials, or sports and materials science.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 1 or 2 A levels, or equivalent, for a foundation degree or higher national diploma
  • 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree
For more information

Apprenticeships relevant to this role include:

  • Materials Science Technologist Level 6 Degree Apprenticeship
  • Space Systems Engineer Level 6 Degree Apprenticeship
  • Materials Process Engineer Level 7 Degree Apprenticeship

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent, for a degree apprenticeship
For more information

More information

Further information

You can find out more about careers in materials engineering from the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining.

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With experience, you could move into project management or technical sales. You could also specialise in a particular material, or work in research and consultancy.

Materials engineer designs, tests and produces novel materials that are built to survive the harsh environment of space.  In the future we will be recycling old satellites and space platforms, as well make new materials in space from mining asteroids and the moon. Materials Engineers will support the development of processes that will enable these new materials and ways of working space happen. 

Examples of post-16 courses you could study at a local school or college

  • Maths, Sciences A-levels
  • Level 2/3 Aircraft Maintenance Engineering 
  • Engineering and Manufacturing T-Level 

Find a local provider

Examples of post-18 courses you could study at a local provider

  • BEng Materials Science and Engineering at Swansea University
  • Meng Aeronautics and Astronautics/Materials and Structures at Southampton University

Search for a degree course

Apprenticeships you may be able to take with local employers

  • Materials Science Technologist Level 6 Degree Apprenticeship
  • Space Systems Engineer Level 6 Degree Apprenticeship
  • Materials Process Engineer Level 7 Degree Apprenticeship

Search for apprenticeship vacancies

Employers in the South West 

  • Thales Alenia Space
  • Frazer Nash Consulting
  • National Composites Centre 
  • Rolls Royce
  • GKN
  • GE Aviation
  • Moog
  • Jacobs
  • Airbus
  • Universities of Bristol, Bath and West of England (UWE)
  • SpaceForge
  • BAE Systems
  • Ministry of Defence

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You'll need:

  • knowledge of engineering science and technology
  • maths knowledge
  • knowledge of chemistry including the safe use and disposal of chemicals
  • knowledge of physics
  • analytical thinking skills
  • knowledge of manufacturing production and processes
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • thinking and reasoning skills
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages confidently
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