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May 19 2012

Engineering: materials and mineral

Study of how things are made and could be improved – including materials science, minerals technology, ceramics and glass, polymers and textiles

What will I learn?
Engineering degrees cover all things related to developing, providing and maintaining infrastructure, products and services that society needs – from researching how to manufacture a product to building bridges and roads.

Students will find themselves studying all, or part, of the life cycle of a product, from conception and design to creation. Science and maths will be the core ingredients, but you will be required to be innovative and know how to use your creative flair within a legal and ethical framework, and in budget.

If you choose materials engineering, you will be entering the most specialist discipline in the engineering stable, which means there are fewer university courses to choose from. It does, however, cover a wide study area, as you will be looking at how everything is made and how it could all be improved. Materials engineering is the meeting point of science and engineering. You'll be required to develop the materials needed for new products, as well as find better, cheaper, quicker, stronger ways of producing those already out there.

If you choose minerals engineering, you will learn about geology, rock mechanics, engineering design, economics, surveying and management. You might focus on blast analysis, advanced-surface and underground surveying, health and safety, ventilation networks, rock mechanics or mineral processing.

What skills will I gain?
Lots. Not only will you have acquired the specific skills to your related engineering discipline, but you'll have learned the practical steps of taking your ideas from the drawing board to the real world. You will know how to solve problems and overcome obstacles, particularly when it comes to considering social and ethical difficulties your work could create. You will know how to work within a budget, be numerate and have good computing skills.

You'll also have an understanding of the legal implications of engineering (health and safety) and how to manage risk, particularly in terms of the environment.

Engineering will involve plenty of teamwork, so you will acquire the ability to argue your ideas, analyse those of others and be able to work towards a common goal.

You should be able to identify customer needs and ensure that your work is fit for purpose.

Chances are you'll get to work on real-life problems, and will probably do a spot of work experience, so you'll have a good idea of how the industry works.

What job can I get?
Careers in manufacturing, processing or in user industries are among the options for materials engineering graduates, perhaps working in research, production or even sales. If you want to research ways of making cars run cheaper and more environmentally friendly, then motor companies will probably want to hear from you. And local and central government are keen to improve their recycling processes, if you were interested in this area. You could also find work in non-governmental organisations, if you don't want to work for the private sector.

Materials and mineral engineering degrees provide an excellent basis for a career in technical management.

What will look good on the CV?
• A knowledge and understanding of scientific and mathematic principles
• The ability to define and develop an economically viable product
• An understanding of the commercial and economic context of engineering processes. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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