I honestly can’t count the number of times I’ve heard people ask “So what do you do exactly?” or “What jobs can you apply for as a Materials Science and Engineering student?” It’s a complex question really, but I wanted to highlight the versatility of the field by listing just several roles I’ve seen my peers enter with an MSE background. I’ll list 10 MSE-related jobs in this article, but keep in mind that MSE students can successfully enter many more; these are just some of the most common ones I’ve seen over the past few years.
Average salaries were found on PayScale, but in general, salaries may vary significantly, as they are heavily dependent on the industry and company you work for
If you are interested in learning strategies to receive offers for any of the roles we mention in this video, check out the MSE career development course we created, which includes testimonials, resumes, cover letters, and even access to a community of young professional mentors in a variety of roles and industries.
1. Materials Engineer (Average Base Salary: $77,907)
The specifics of what a materials engineer does depends heavily on the industry and application--essentially materials engineers iteratively develop, test, and process materials to fit a specific need for a product, such as medical devices, soda cans, jet engines, or microchips.
This often involves experimenting with and altering existing materials, like metals, ceramics, or polymers, to get the desired properties and performance for this application. This is where the MSE tetrahedron comes into play; it’s important to know how the structure, the properties, processing, and characterization all are interconnected to determine the material’s performance.
(For more info on succeeding in MSE careers, check out our free career development guide for Materials Science and Engineering students).
2. Process Engineer (Average Base Salary: $74,471)
Process engineers develop and optimize industrial processes, for instance involving semiconductors or jet engines. They ensure raw materials are transformed into the final product as efficiently as possible by monitoring and improving the equipment and methods involved in the process.
A large part of the MSE curriculum involves learning about how various materials are processed and how different parameters affect the structure and properties of the materials. You can leverage this knowledge and include these courses and related keywords when applying to process engineer roles.
3. Manufacturing Engineer (Average Base Salary: $71,052)
Process Engineering and Manufacturing Engineering are very similar and sometimes used interchangeably, but manufacturing engineers study and improve manufacturing methods and tend to have more training in supply chain management and operations. Manufacturing Engineers find solutions to production issues, and they can use Computer-Aided Design software to create systems to aid in manufacturing.
I’d recommend taking a CAD course or learning SolidWorks or AutoCAD on your own through LinkedIn Learning or some other online platform. This skill, combined with your knowledge of materials processing, will set you apart from many other candidates.
MSE Career Development Online Course
Before we get into #4, I want to tell you about our MSE Career Development Online Course, which includes all the resources I wish I had as an MSE student seeking internship and full-time opportunities.
We brought together 14 young MSE professionals from various schools and industries to share an overview of their role and company, relevant MSE principles and concepts, and actionable strategies to land an interview in this industry, including networking, resume, and interview tips. These mentors have experience in many companies, including SpaceX, Tesla, Nike, Boston Scientific, Gore, NASA, P&G, Applied Materials, and more.
We’re also including their resumes and cover letters and templates of our own and to show you a blueprint for success if you want to follow that path. Since networking is as important as ever, we also would love for you to join our membership community and get instant access to Q&A with these mentors, receive resume feedback, weekly group coaching, and more.
Alright, back to #4!
4. R&D Engineer or Product Development Engineer (Average Base Salary: $76,904)
R&D Engineers and Product Development Engineers conceptualize, design, and test new products. They also develop experiments to iteratively improve existing products.
As MSEs, you can leverage your materials background to provide a unique perspective on how to improve a product, or design a new one altogether.
5. Quality Engineer (Average Base Salary: $71,364)
A quality engineer designs tests to verify that a product meets the performance and safety standards and functions as intended. When an issue arises, quality engineers problem solve, investigate root causes, and implement corrective or preventive action plans.
When these issues are materials-related, your MSE background can come in really handy, and in general, your engineering background will provide you with the tools needed to solve problems and identify root causes.
6. Research Scientist (Average Base Salary: $81,855/year)
If you are looking for a more research-focused role, research scientists plan and conduct lab-based experiments and analyze data. They then write reports and present results to identify a path forward in a potentially groundbreaking field.
MSE is unique because it is, by definition, a major that focuses on science and engineering, so I’ve seen many MSEs pursue this route to create lasting innovations.
7. Packaging Engineer (Average Base Salary: $71,053)
Packaging engineers keep in mind both form and function when designing packages, which make MSEs a unique fit, because you can do a cost-benefit analysis of various packaging materials, you can develop existing materials to perform better, or you can identify alternatives that may be more cost efficient, durable, and/or more sustainable.
8. Entrepreneur / CEO (Average CEO Salary: $155,887)
Note: With entrepreneurship and building your own company, it often takes a long while to become profitable, but if you can accomplish this, your returns can be massive.
Since materials are literally everywhere, there is massive potential to find your niche and develop a product that is particularly useful in that area. Your MSE background can help you become a better entrepreneur because you’ll have an inherent analytical mindset, an ability to solve several different problems, and a diverse knowledge base of different materials and industries.
9. Consultant ($88,623/year for Management Consultants, $74,150/year for Engineering Consultants)
Management consultants implement problem-solving techniques and business knowledge to provide key business solutions for a variety of clients.
Engineering consultants provide engineering advice and technical solutions on customer projects. Since MSE is currently a lesser known field than Mechanical Engineering or Chemical Engineering, you can differentiate yourself with this background because materials are more than likely involved in the client’s business in some fashion, and there is likely room for improvement.
10. Systems Engineer (Average Base Salary: $80,445)
This role typically involves overseeing all aspects of a project or infrastructure, identifying challenges, and brainstorming and implementing the best solution.
While this role isn’t specific to MSEs, this just goes to show that materials science and engineering students have succeeded in a diverse set of positions and companies.
By no means is this an exhaustive list; we just wanted to ultimately show you MSEs can do absolutely anything in any industry.
And just a reminder, to learn the most effective job search strategies and network with professionals in these roles and industries, check out this online course.