Online Materials Engineering Degrees and Programs

Material science has been called the “study of stuff.” Currently, about 300,000 different known materials exist, according to StrangeMatter, an exhibition developed by the Ontario Science Centre and presented by the Materials Research Society. And that number will grow as materials scientists and engineers continue to combine existing materials and create new ones.

Major material categories include metals, ceramics, semiconductors, polymers, composites, biomaterial, and strange and exotic materials that don’t fit in any of the other categories. New materials open the door to new technologies in other engineering fields, which makes materials engineers the master of all they survey.

Graduates of materials engineering programs understand the relationships between material properties, structure, processing and performance. Students take electives in areas of interest such as corrosion, physical ceramics, high temperature alloys, biomaterial, polymer synthesis or dynamic behavior of material. A materials engineering curriculum includes a heavy dose of chemistry, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics and physics as well as coursework in the arts, humanities and social sciences. Students select an area of specialization from concentrations such as the following:

  • Materials science general studies
  • Metals
  • Polymers
  • Biomaterial
  • Electronic material
  • Nanotechnology

Online engineering degrees in materials engineering are available at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree levels, although most entry-level materials engineer positions require a bachelor’s degree. According to the Department of Labor, 45.7 percent of materials engineers have earned bachelor’s degrees, while 17.3 percent hold a master’s degree.

An associate degree can prepare students to enter the workforce as materials engineering technicians, generally under the supervision of an engineer, or to continue their educations at the bachelor’s degree level.

Bachelor’s degrees provide students with a solid foundation for entry-level engineer positions or further study at the graduate and professional level.

Master’s degrees normally take from one to five years to complete, depending on the program and whether the student attends full time. A Master of Science, or M.S., program typically prepares students for research careers while a one year Master of Engineering, or M.Eng., is most often for graduates entering the workforce or for engineering professionals who want to change careers or who are seeking promotions.

The requirements differ for programs awarding Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or Doctor of Engineering (D.Eng.) degrees. Ph.D. programs are generally oriented toward research, while D.Eng. degrees prepare graduates for high-level positions in government or industry.

By pursuing online degrees in materials engineering, students could collaborate with engineers worldwide to understand the global impact of materials engineering solutions on the economy, the environment and society. Working professionals can also apply materials engineering theory at their jobs and use practical applications from the real world to enhance their online education.

Students in online materials engineering degree programs may make use of virtual labs to gain hands-on skills in the field. Virtual labs, a relatively new development in online education, allow students to log in to networked systems that simulate experiments or work done in physical labs.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, materials engineers earned mean annual wages in 2010 of $85,860. Most of the 21,830 professionals in this field worked in aerospace product and parts manufacturing. Professional and commercial equipment and supplies wholesalers paid the top wages for materials engineers in 2010.

The Department of Labor projects excellent employment growth for materials engineers between 2008 and 2018 in states such as Nevada, at 27 percent, and Idaho, at 22 percent; however, the growth figure nationwide is only 9 percent.

  • Highest wages: Professional and commercial equipment and supplies wholesalers paid top wages: $114,870 (BLS)
  • Number of engineers: 21,830 materials engineers in 2010
  • Degrees: 45.7 percent of materials engineers hold bachelor’s degrees and 17.3 percent have master’s degrees
Methodologies and Sources