TECHNICAL SKILLS REQUIRED
• Fundamental understanding of the structure, composition,
and properties of substances
• Mathematics and computer science skills, especially the
ability to understand and apply statistical techniques
• Analytical instrumentation techniques to characterize
properties and performance of materials
• Critical thinking, problem solving, and analytical skills to
determine which tests to conduct and to interpret their
• Communication skills, both written and oral, to share find-
ings with both scientists and non-scientists.
Explore Career Options
in Materials Science
BY ACS STAFF
Materials science is a relatively new and very broad field. It involves applications from a number of scientific disciplines that contribute to the creation of new materials. Chemists play a predominant role in materials science,
because chemistry provides information about the structure and
composition of materials, as well as the processes to synthesize
and use them.
The central theory behind materials science involves relating
the microstructure of a material to its macromolecular physical
and chemical properties. By understanding and then changing
the microstructure, materials scientists tailor the properties to
create custom, or even brand-new, materials with properties
designed for specific uses.
Materials scientists are employed by companies that make
products from metals, ceramics, and rubber. They also work in
the coatings industry, where they develop new varieties of paint,
and in the biomedical field, where they design materials that are
compatible with human tissues for prosthetics and implants.
Other important areas are polymers (including biological polymers), composites (heterogeneous materials made of two or
more substances), superconducting materials, graphite materials, integrated-circuit chips, and fuel cells.
Materials science spans so many different disciplines and
Where the work happens
applications that people who work in this field tend to specialize
in a technique or material type. Students are urged to contact
associations for ceramic manufacturers, synthetic rubber mak-
ers, paints and coatings manufacturers, and plastics makers to
find out more about these areas and the
opportunities that exist for materials chem-
ists in each.
Some materials scientists say one of the
most satisfying aspects of their work is
being involved in a project from the material’s initial concept through its manufacture and marketing. Much of their work is
performed in the lab, but they also work
with engineers and processing specialists
in pilot plants or manufacturing facilities.
After a material is commercialized, materials scientists often help customers tailor the
material to suit their needs. Most materials
scientists are employed in industry (
including many in the electronics and computer
sectors) where products are made, but some
are employed by government and academia.
Materials science covers a broad range of
sciences; as a result, there is no average
day. Materials scientists do everything from
fundamental research on the chemical
properties of materials to developing new
materials and modifying formulations of
existing materials to suit new applications.
They work with engineers and processing
specialists, in pilot plants, and in manufacturing facilities.
Materials scientists generally gain more independence and
responsibility as they progress in their careers. They also tend
to become more specialized in a particular type of material —
increasing their expertise and value to their company, but sometimes also restricting their job movement possibilities.
Materials scientists say the current job outlook continues to
be positive, because of the ongoing demand for new materials