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Materials Scientist / Engineer
Materials scientists or engineers study the structures and properties of various materials such as metals, alloys, ceramics, semiconductors and polymers. The purpose of these studies is to understand and characterize materials and to develop new materials for commercial and scientific benefit.

The financial yield of selling finished products is generally much higher than that of selling natural resources that are still in ore form. Materials scientists find and develop creative and economical ways of converting natural resources into final products. This covers a very broad spectrum and they perform a range of different functions in various industries.

Materials scientists can specialize in areas such as the following:

- guiding technical staff in developing materials for a specific use of a projected product
- mining and processing materials
- extracting certain elements from minerals
- processing minerals into materials such as metals, ceramics and plastics
- using materials in engineering structures
- disposing of waste materials
- managing a furnace or rolling mill
- conducting laboratory experiments in the production of materials, to confirm the feasibility of processes and techniques for potential users

Satisfying Aspects
- challenge of applying research to finding ways of improving a process or product
- variety of work
- choice of specializations

Demanding aspects
- long working hours
- the hard work and dedication required

A materials scientist should:
- have scientific and mathematical aptitude;
- have above-average intelligence;
- have an analytical and practical inclination;
- be able to conceptualize abstract ideas;
- be highly motivated and dedicated.

School Subjects
National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course
National Senior Certificate meeting diploma requirements for a diploma course

Each institution will have its own minimum entry requirements.

Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics, Physical Sciences
Recommended Subjects: None

Degree: BSc: Metallurgical Engineering / Extraction Metallurgy - UP, UJ, Wits.

Those with a BEng. degree and three years’ practical experience can register as Professional Engineers with the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA).

Diploma: N.Dip: Metallurgical Engineering - TUT, VUT.

Training for technologists include university of technology courses in Materials Science, Engineering, Mathematics, Quality Control, Computer Applications and Metallurgical Engineering. Usually, employing companies require recently qualified diploma graduates to undergo a period of further in-service training before they are accepted as fully qualified materials scientists or engineers.

Employers include the manufacturers of microprocessors and computers, electronic equipment, plastics, ceramic, steel, glass and other products.

Companies and statutory organizations that employ materials scientists and metallurgical engineers include: Iscor, Council for Mineral Technology - MINTEK, ESKOM, CSIR, Samancor, AEC, Sasol, Anglo American, Rand Mines, Gencor, JCI, De Beers, Columbus Stainless Steel and Huletts Aluminium. They perform a variety of functions such as research, development, marketing and management. Some of these organizations award bursaries to prospective materials scientists or materials engineers.

Self-employment is also an option, with enough experience, a materials scientist or engineer can start their own business and work as consultants, particularly in the fields of welding, casting, corrosion and failure analysis.

The Head
Information and Communication Division
Private Bag X3015
Randburg, 2125

The South African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
P O Box 61127
Marshalltown, 2107
Tel: (011) 834-1273/7 Fax: (011) 838-5923