The study of metals remains one of the most exciting scientific fields today. Its developing technologies that could revolutionise tomorrow, and is even turning fictional possibilities (like the made-up metal in Wolverine’s claws) into actual probabilities. Becoming a metallurgist certainly takes plenty of time and discipline, but opens up a broad range of fulfilling career opportunities.

First, what is a ‘metallurgist’?

Also known as a metallurgical engineers or material science engineers, a metallurgist studies the properties of metals (such as steel, aluminium, iron and copper) and uses their findings for the purpose of metal recovery production, purification and use.

The study of metals can be broken down into further disciplines, such as chemical metallurgists who study the recoverability of metals and ways to strengthen them, physical metallurgists who observe how metal reacts under stress (and who are vital for investigating accidents caused by metallurgical failure) and process metallurgists who oversee the design and manufacturing of metal parts. Though these probably all seem vital from an industrial or business perspective, some metallurgists also help develop new metallic processes that benefit the environment by being less wasteful and requiring fewer resources.

What will I need to study?

Metallurgy is usually part of a broader natural sciences course at university, but in practice it requires a rather large range of various skills, subject areas and applications. All in all it takes a fairly solid grounding in science to get started on a metallurgy degree, and as well as branching off into the three disciplines we outlined earlier, undergraduates may also find themselves studying subjects like chemical engineering, engineering design and instrumentation technology.

Virtually all metal engineering courses will devote time to laboratory work, and some offer programs that combine study with job experience - the latter of which is highly valuable to anyone looking to move into an entry level technician job. Postgraduate courses meanwhile are essential for getting a research and development position, and typically cover the fundamentals of thermodynamics, structure and mechanical behaviour, as well as advanced subjects like engineering alloys, processing and modelling.

To actually become an employable metallurgist, you must also be licensed. In the UK, this comes in the form of two qualifications: the incorporated engineer (IEng) and chartered engineer (CEng) level. Both of these are awarded by the Engineering Council, and you'll need to be a member of a relevant body such as the The Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3) or Institue of Corrosion (ICorr).

Post By Daniel