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Ceramics Engineer


Description

How would you react if someone told you there was a connection among flowerpots, fiber-optic communication lines, astronauts, bricks and cavities? At first glance, they seem completely unrelated but upon closer inspection, they are all products of ceramic engineering. Ceramics are compounds with both metallic and non-metallic elements used because of their insulating nature and resistance to high temperatures and harsh environments. Ceramics engineers are experts in the design and manufacture of ceramics as their goal is to make useful ceramic products.

Ceramics engineers are specialists in the behavior, application and use of ceramics. They develop methods for processing non-metallic inorganic materials into many ceramic products and pollution control devices. Recent advances in physics and chemistry have expanded the applications of ceramic engineering from traditionally established industries to projects that encompass every area of technology. Ceramics engineers are frequently challenged to produce new ideas and are faced with difficult problem solving questions. Those experienced in both the scientific and production aspects of the profession may also work as administrators, project supervisors, sales engineers or technical consultants to firms using ceramic materials.

Ceramics engineers often specialize in a specific area once they gain some experience and become more established. Examples of these speciality areas include porcelain and china dinnerware, floor tiles, microwave devices and car paint coatings. The biggest collective project to date among ceramics engineers is the development of a ceramic engine, which would replace the present diesel, gasoline and turbo engines.

Ceramics engineers usually work with a team of other engineers, technicians and scientists and make sure that everything is running smoothly, safely and will withstand a number of conditions. When in the office, ceramics engineers use high-tech computer-aided design (CAD) systems to create realistic geometric models of objects which can simulate and analyze the effects and potential problems of designs. If they do find faults within the designs, they will work at creating solutions to prevent potential disasters. Because of CAD technology, the majority of design work now takes place on the computer, which has prevented laboratory disasters and made lab work more efficient.

Ceramics engineers are required to constantly update their skills and knowledge in order to keep up with technological advancements in this quickly changing field.
 
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  Average Earnings  
Lowest 10% of Earners:
$39,360
 
Median Salary:
$62,590
 
Highest 10% of Earners:
$92,690

  Interests and Skills  
Ceramics engineers should possess a natural sense of scientific curiosity when it comes to materials and minerals because they have to create new and improved products from ceramics materials. Therefore, they enjoy difficult problem solving and analyzing, and have a good memory. They have the ability to work both independently and in a team environment and also enjoy communicating their ideas to fellow managers, technicians, craftworkers and clients.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Study and advise on the development of processing techniques concerned with the manufacture of ceramic products
  • Test physical, chemical and heat-resisting properties of materials such as clays and silicas
  • Analyze test results to determine the combination of materials that will improve quality and reduce costs
  • Investigate processing methods, including the forming and firing of raw materials, to develop improved ceramic products, such as ceramic tools and furnace liners
  • Design equipment and apparatus for forming, firing and handling ceramic products
  • Advise on testing of finished products for texture, color, durability, glaze and refractory properties
  • A typical day for a ceramics engineer will vary according to the professional's speciality area and place of employment. Some may spend the majority of their day in the office whereas others may work primarily in the laboratory, running tests on raw materials or finished products and analyzing the results. Most ceramics engineers work regular 40- to 50-hour workweeks and are required to work longer hours when necessary.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Ceramics engineers can work in so many different fields of engineering because many machines, structures and electronics require ceramic products. They are often employed by government research organizations, materials testing laboratories, electronics companies, aerospace and marine design, car companies, primary metal producers, mineral processing plants, energy conservation firms, household appliances or housewares, dental companies and finally, engineering consulting firms specializing in ceramics and other metallurgical work.

  Long Term Career Potential  
As ceramics engineer gain experience, may advance to positions of greater responsibility. Depending on the organization, a ceramics engineer may advance to a supervising position, to chief engineer or plant manager. Those who seek top industrial executive positions in administration or management will find it advantageous to obtain graduate or doctoral degrees in ceramic engineering, materials science or business administration. Also, ceramics engineers can open up their own consulting firms and focus primarily on research and development work.
 

  Educational Paths  
While still in high school, if this is the career path you are interested in taking, make sure you take courses in mathematics, science and art. Most college programs will require these subject areas as prerequisites.

Ceramics engineers require a bachelor's degree in ceramics, metallurgical or materials engineering. They must also become registered as a Professional Engineer (PEng) within an association of professional engineers to secure employment and practice in their field.
 

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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