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Metallurgical Technologist


Metallurgy is often compared to alchemy since both disciplines are supposedly known for their abilities to turn metals into more valuable products. However, the main difference between these two career fields is that we can physically and scientifically prove that metallurgical technologists are performing these great feats.

Metals are synthesized and formed into useful products everyday by metallurgical technologists. Whether it is silver flatware, iron golf clubs, socket wrenches or key-chain rings, they are all formed and developed by these technologists. Metallurgical technologists are involved in the extraction, development, processing, application and evaluation of metals, minerals and materials that make these products.

Metallurgical technologists conduct experiments on metals and other related materials and design new products that can be sold commercially. They often specialize in a particular area of metallurgy, such as corrosion, semiconductors or pyrometallurgy. Metallurgical technologists can be broadly grouped into two areas of practice: extractive and physical. Extractive metallurgical technologists develop and control chemical processes used to recover pure metals from their raw ores. Physical metallurgical technologists work to improve the physical and chemical properties of finished metal products through the use of alloys, heat treatment and other manufacturing methods.

Despite these two groupings, all metallurgical technologists are involved in similar processes: research, design and testing. The research stage consists of formulating theories using mathematical and scientific principles to determine whether or not a plan will work. For example, those who work on designing canoes must consider the possibility of corrosion on the keel (underside of the boat). The design component applies the research to create and produce a commercial product. The testers are quality controllers who literally test the products for safety and quality before they hit the marketplace. Some factors they consider are the strength, appearance and various electro-magnetic properties of a product.

Metallurgical technologists usually work with a team of metallurgical engineers, technicians and scientists and often follow the guidance of engineers to make sure that everything is running smoothly and safely. They may also use computer-aided design (CAD) systems to create realistic geometric models of objects which can simulate and analyze the effects and potential problems of designs. Although a great deal of work takes place on the computer, many metallurgical technologists travel to factories or plants to see their designs and work in production. Metallurgical technologists 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  
Metallurgical technologists should possess a natural sense of scientific curiosity when it comes to materials, minerals and metals. Most enjoy 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 metals
  • Conduct processes for moulding, shaping and melding metals
  • Obtain, measure and prepare samples for testing
  • Subject metals and materials to test procedures often using complex equipment under the direction of metallurgists
  • Research, develop and monitor processes for extracting metals from ores, such as refining
  • Determine appropriate methods for fabricating and joining materials
  • Analyze, record and report results
  • Compile charts, graphs and other data for reports
  • A typical day for metallurgical technologist will vary according to the area they specialize in. Most split up their work time among the office, laboratory and plant or 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. Traveling will generally include going on-site. Those working in and around smelting furnaces and welding machines will encounter heat, dust and noise.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Metallurgical technologists work for government research organizations, materials testing laboratories, manufacturing organizations, electronics companies, aerospace and marine design, car companies, quality control plants, primary metal producers, mineral processing plants, energy conservation firms, household appliances, metal refineries and oil companies and finally, engineering consulting firms specializing in corrosion, pipeline maintenance and other metallurgical work. They may also work for jewelry companies, helping in the manufacturing of precious metals.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Since the metallurgical technology field is quite specialized, some say there is little room for movement or advancement. Take note: this is a myth! Those with production experience could move into sales or customer service positions. With further education and experience, they can become metallurgical engineers or metallurgists or move into related mining and mineralogy fields. Metallurgical technologists may decide to open up their own consulting firms and focus primarily on research and development work. Finally, those working in large companies can move into management positions and lead engineering companies.

  Educational Paths  
Metallurgical technologists require the completion of a two- or three-year college program in metallurgy technology or a closely related metallurgical engineering discipline. Certification in metallurgical technology or in a related field is available through associations of technologists and technicians and may be required by employers. A two-year period of supervised work experience is required before one can become certified as a metallurgical technologist.

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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