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Physical Metallurgical Engineer


Physical metallurgical engineers are constantly being compared to alchemists since both are known for their abilities to turn metals into more valuable products. However, the main difference between these two careers is that we can physically and scientifically prove that engineers are performing these great feats. Metals are being used, synthesized and formed into useful products every day by physical metallurgical engineers. Whether it is silver flatware, iron golf clubs, socket wrenches or key-chain rings, they were all designed and developed by these engineers. Physical metallurgical engineers are involved in the extraction, development and processing of metals and minerals that make these products.

Physical metallurgical engineers study the nature and properties of different metals and their alloys and research their responses to applied and manipulated forces. They conduct experiments using different techniques, such as refining, and design new products that can be sold commercially. Once established as engineers, they will often specialize in a particular area such as metals, corrosion, semiconductors or pyrometallurgy.

All physical metallurgical engineers conduct research, make designs and test the designs through experimentation. The research stage is crucial as it consists of formulating theories using mathematical and scientific principles to determine whether or not a plan will work. They must consider a number of factors when working with different materials such as strength, appearance and electro-magnetic properties. The design component applies the research to create and produce a commercial product or computer generated design, which the designer must also consider how to sell. Finally, products must be tested for safety and quality before they hit the marketplace.

Physical metallurgical 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. They 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. Some engineers also work at improving already existing products in order to make them more user-friendly or environmentally sustainable. A great deal of work also takes in the laboratory or a factory equipped to run certain welding and refining machines.

Physical metallurgical 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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  Interests and Skills  
Physical metallurgical engineers should possess a natural sense of scientific curiosity when it comes to materials, minerals and metals because they have to create new and improved products from these organic materials. Therefore, they enjoy difficult problem solving, analyzing scientific experiments and finding faster and cheaper methods for production. They have the ability to work both independently and in a team environment and also enjoy communicating with fellow workers and clients.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Study the properties and characteristics of metallic and non-metallic materials
  • Design, develop and test new techniques of metal manipulation
  • Conduct processes for moulding, shaping and melding metals
  • Use thermal and mechanical treatments to modify alloy properties
  • Research, develop and monitor processes for extracting metals from ores, such as refining
  • Conduct chemical and physical analytical studies, failure analyses and other studies and recommend material selection, design of materials, corrosion control measures, operational testing and other procedures
  • Determine appropriate methods for fabricating and joining materials
  • Monitor material performance and evaluate material deterioration
  • Analyze material failures to find causes and develop solutions
  • Supervise technologists, technicians and other engineers and scientists.
  • A typical day for physical metallurgical engineers will vary according to the area they specialize in. Most split up their work time among the laboratory, office and field sites. Many work an average 40- to 50-hour workweek and will put in overtime when a deadline is coming near or an emergency occurs. Travelling will generally include going on-site. Those working in and around smelting furnaces and welding machines will encounter heat, dust and noise. Senior engineers may spend more time in an office performing managerial functions.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Physical metallurgical engineers can work in so many different fields of engineering because many machines, structures and electronics require metals and similar 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, petroleum refineries and oil companies and finally, engineering consulting firms specializing in corrosion, pipeline maintenance and other metallurgical work.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Since the physical metallurgical engineering field is quite specialized, some may say there is no room for movement or advancement. Yet this is a myth. Those with production experience could move into sales or customer service positions. Since they are so knowledgeable about these material products (who is more knowledgeable than the makers?), they would be perfect representatives.

Physical metallurgical engineers can open up their own consulting firms and focus their work primarily on research and development work. Those working in large companies can move into management positions and lead engineering companies. Finally, physical metallurgical engineers with PhDs can also teach at the postsecondary level.

  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 and chemistry. Most university and college programs will require these subject areas as prerequisites.

Physical metallurgical engineers require a bachelor's degree in metallurgical or materials engineering or in a related engineering field. Then, they must also become registered as a professional engineer (PEng) within an association of professional engineers to secure employment and practice in their field. Some engineers also get master's degrees in a specific area, such as ceramics engineering.

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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Grantham University's 100% accredited online degrees are convenient, portable and designed so you can fit education into your life instead of arranging life around your education.
Programs Offered:
  • Bachelor of Science in Engineering Management Technology
  • Associate of Arts in Engineering Management Technology

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