What Does a Metallurgical Engineer do?

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Are you familiar with metallurgical engineering careers? Well, it’s safe to say that engineering is, in general, a difficult job. Taking an undergraduate program in engineering at a university already seems challenging. That’s because engineering in itself requires a firm understanding of the sciences.

There are three types of engineers that specialize in Earth sciences. These include geological engineers, mining engineers and metallurgical engineers. If you are somebody who wants to take up metallurgical engineering in Canada but doesn’t know where to start, then look no further. Our guide below covers everything you need to know about this rewarding and equally challenging career.

What Kind of Job is Metallurgical Engineering?

Metallurgical engineering, along with the aforementioned geological engineers and mining engineers, is engineering geologists who work with the logistics involving mining and finding mines, both old and new. They also work in planning mines, how to restructure them while the process goes on, and how to plan and use them safely. When it comes to logistics, these engineers work together to correctly and efficiently plan the whole process of moving materials outside and people in and out day by day. Metallurgical engineers are also responsible for checking the construction of brand new shafts inside built mines, supervising the production and efficiency of the mineworkers to check if the mining process needs improvement. These are just some of their many duties and responsibilities.

However, some metallurgical engineers solely work behind desks. That’s because these engineers are also material engineers who specialize in developing, processing and testing the raw metallic minerals that are mine. As mentioned, metallurgical engineer jobs may vary and depend on their employers’ current and future requirements. But most of the time, metallurgical engineers will work in a mining company’s industrial sector. This is usually meant for foundries, manufacturing firms, scientific organizations and other mining-related organizations. 

Metallurgical engineers share their knowledge of mining and metals to solve any problem regarding the efficacy of relevant processes and the quality of metals. They do this using a process called failure analysis. Component failure analysis involves doing plenty of research and figuring out the source of a component failure. In turn, a metallurgical engineer is responsible for developing a set of recommendations for improving the overall performance of necessary process pipelines and avoiding common problems. Sometimes, a metallurgical engineer works together with other engineers or technicians from a production company. Meanwhile, some work with scientists in a laboratory for specific research and development projects.

How to Become a Metallurgical Engineer

If you’re interested in becoming a metallurgical engineer, the first thing you need to consider is how much knowledge you need. This helps you prepare in advance, so you won’t feel too overwhelmed when you finally take on that engineering job. According to recent research studies, at least 75.6 percent of metallurgical engineers have a bachelor’s degree in the related fields described earlier. Meanwhile, 16.9 percent of metallurgical engineers have post-graduate degrees, often completing master’s programs. Even though a simple college degree is needed to apply for this job, becoming a metallurgical engineer wouldn’t be possible when you only have a GED or a high school diploma. 

When going to college or university, picking the correct major is a crucial step to pursuing your dream of becoming a metallurgical engineer. As mentioned, the most common college majors for a metallurgical engineering job require a bachelor’s degree, sometimes a master’s degree. A company will need you to have a doctoral degree or an associate degree on rare occasions. 

Sometimes, you need to hone some other skills before becoming a metallurgical engineer, which will require you to apply for other jobs. In this case, the most common one is for a metallurgist job. But you can also take on an engineering internship or a research assistant role.

What Degree Programs Should I Take to Become a Metallurgical Engineer?

Many universities and colleges offer programs related to metallurgical engineering. Eligibility criteria for admission to these programs include a student passing a qualifying examination from any recognized board with educational programs related to physics, mathematics or chemistry as main subjects. There should also be a minimum aggregate mark of at least 50 percent. Some colleges will require the student to have completed a bachelor’s degree in a field related to metallurgical engineering, along with a minimum aggregate mark of 50 percent. 

For a metallurgical engineering job, a bachelor’s degree is more or less the minimum requirement. Canadian employers like engineering companies are looking for applicants with a bachelor’s degree specializing in metallurgical science or materials, although – Depending on which position you’re applying in or the company – Perhaps a simple engineering degree may do. Some more senior positions will also require you to have a master’s degree in metallurgical engineering or higher. Plenty of the positions related to this job will need you to have at least a basic knowledge of what metallurgical engineering is all about, and you can only gain that through work experience. So an engineering internship or applying as an intern in your company of choice could benefit your main goal. 

If you’re still in high school, focus on the hard sciences like math and physics. College students should take an engineering course and apply to a college that provides a couple of academic units with undergraduate or a postgraduate degree in geological, metallurgical or mining engineering. The average metallurgy courses in Canada related to these jobs will often include math, physics and geology. But later on, they could start honing your knowledge and skills in mining safety. If you applied to a college that doesn’t provide these engineering courses, you should opt for an elective or a minor in math or science-related subjects.

When you reach the postgraduate level, you’ll be free to enhance your knowledge further to become relevant in the career of your choice. Of course, a master’s degree is also preferred because it’s pretty essential in workplaces where there’s a considerable demand for metallurgical engineers. If you’re a person who wants to take full advantage of your job and find greater responsibilities, then a master’s degree would be significant for the development of your career. Because this is a theoretical and practical job, post-graduate and undergraduate students alike will need to finish plenty of project work and fieldwork. Master’s degrees will also require you to create a thesis.

Required Skills for Metallurgical Engineering

To become a metallurgical engineer, you must be an expert in certain skill sets. You must be good at loads of fields to succeed in every role – Whether it’s for metallurgical engineering or just about any course. You have to know the following skills: Design review, applied physics, materials requirement planning, failure analysis, reliability analysis, new product development, requirement engineering and analysis and metallurgical engineering. If taking on a laboratory-based metallurgical engineering job, then you must have a basic grasp of the following: CAD software, among other computer-aided engineering software. Your ability to become the best metallurgical engineer in your workplace and stand out among the rest of your competitors will all depend on learning these skills, aside from your job interview and the relevant credentials in your resume. 

Metallurgical engineers are required to perform a wide assortment of technical and specialized skills. These all tend to be unique to the employer, the company, and the job itself. As a metallurgical engineer, you can learn more about these skills, thanks to a good combination of work experience and formidable education. However, being excellent in math and problem-solving can be pretty helpful. Another skill you need to master is a working knowledge regarding the metallurgical process, metals themselves, the various testing methods done in labs, computer software, safety standards and using appropriate lab equipment. 

What’s more, since these metallurgical engineers tend to work in teams to see what’s behind an inevitable material failure and search for new methods to improve a product’s efficiency, they must be able to have the right set of communication skills. This allows them to articulate their findings more straightforwardly and make recommendations to their fellow metallurgical engineers and different companies and clients.

Common Job Descriptions for Metallurgical Engineer Roles

Metallurgical engineers tend to look at all sorts of different aspects of metals. One of their primary skills is to identify and unearth various metals. Skill sets required for metallurgical engineering include:

  • To perform metallurgical testing, and if necessary, the analysis inside a lab. Must also be willing to do fieldwork outdoors.
  • Must be able to use any welding equipment and heavy or complex machines if the job needs them. They should also be ready to expose themselves to harsh temperatures and heat treatments. 
  • As mentioned previously, they must have at least a bachelor’s degree in metallurgy or geological engineering – Or anything close to that field of study.
  • They should offer their support to any mining project, including loading and hauling coal and developing mining pits. 
  • They should be knowledgeable and obey all environmental safety rules and regulations.
  • Must have basic skills in designing maps and drawings.
  • Should have basic knowledge in engineering computer software, including AutoCAD.
  • They should learn about the behaviours and characteristics of several metals and know about extraction methods for specific metals. They must also be able to identify metal isolation. 
  • Learn more about new products and opportunities through field research.
  • Must be able to use and maintain field equipment powered by GPS (Global Positioning System)
  • Analyze, collect, and document the gathered data.
  • They must also produce reports regularly, alongside gathering up some data analysis reports. 

Metallurgical engineers, notably metallurgical engineering managers, also have to handle and supervise large projects related to mining, so they can share their opinions or give advice. They must also readily solve any issue that the project encounters. This position allows them to show off several skills needed for an entry-level position.

Should you land that metallurgical engineering job, here is what to expect:

  • Use your master’s degree or Ph.D. in metallurgy in tasks related to geological engineering or any other related field of study. 
  • Set budgets related to a particular project, and assign work schedules to your fellow teammates.
  • Experience and participate in metallurgical investigations or mining projects.
  • Train interns, employees or anyone new at work and design training programs. 
  • Create and present your project designs to your clients or management with strong communication or written skills. 
  • Validate and examine drawings from fellow engineers or employees.
  • If working in a lab environment, you must be able to mentor and manage your workers and the ones assigned to a field. 
  • Take a closer look at new products or study new methods. You must also find a way to decrease their costs and help increase the productivity among your workmates. 
  • Identify which products are required using market analyses, with the pure intention of supporting a company’s way of earning profits. 
  • Learn about brand new alloys that you can use, and think of good ways to process and utilize them. 
  • Make consultations for your management and clients and perform quality assurance tasks.
  • And finally, you should be able to solve difficult issues and technical situations with a critical mind. 

Metallurgical engineers are also known to initiate and work on manufacturing metals or ores. They must also learn how to operate the production equipment needed to extract these metals from the ground and basic knowledge of lab equipment and lab safety. A metallurgical engineer should also perform analysis and conduct lab tests to help other engineers or employees and interns develop brand new or improved versions of metals and alloys. They should also know how to apply these metals and alloys in their respective products and which products they’re good and bad at. They typically report to a manager or supervisor and are required to give presentations. To gain skills, a metallurgical engineer must gain exposure to a couple of complex tasks found inside their job and its functions. Some workplaces that hire metallurgical engineers will require at least 2 to 5 years of working experience.

Metallurgical Engineer Career Paths

While you move along your career path in metallurgical engineering, you can now begin to take on some of the job’s more complex responsibilities. And eventually, if your seniors like what you’re doing or are satisfied with your performance, they’ll start assigning you to leadership roles. Metallurgical engineers will figure out their career goals as they progress. For instance, they can begin as a process engineer, later achieve the title of manufacturing engineer, and then get promoted to a manufacturing engineering manager. 

Other prestigious roles in the metallurgical engineering career path include:

  • Senior engineering manager (requiring 12 years of experience).
  • Manufacturing director (14 years of experience).
  • Vice president of manufacturing (14 years of experience).
  • Product line manager (8 years of experience) and quality systems manager (12 years of experience).

Is There Job Demand for Metallurgical Engineers?

The demand for a metallurgical engineer job is expected to grow to 4 percent from 2020 to 2030. Even though companies could always use more engineers, and it is a widely recognized area of skills shortage, many companies will depend on engineers because they know more about mining in the core areas of industry. Perhaps among the things with the most significant impact that the job could have over the next couple of years would likely be a drop in demand for gas and oil. The prices for these two have already significantly gone down over the past five years, which means that an oversupply is on its way. 

The divestment that’s happening around the globe could also have a huge impact on the demand for engineers and other jobs related to it. But instability in discovering or mining new metals could significantly increase uptakes in North American countries across the USA and Canada. This is because they still have to discover and use these newly-discovered materials and not depend on imports too much.

Where Do Metallurgical Engineers Usually Work?

In 2014, there were at least 8000+ professional metallurgical engineers, alongside geological and mining engineers in the USA and Canada. As described in this guide earlier, your work as a metallurgical engineer can depend on the company that offers you the job and where they’re based. For instance, you can be assigned to a remote mining facility, away from your family or friends. Or maybe you could start your first day of work at a gravel pit near an urban center. If you take on a laboratory or office-based job, you can be sent to a metropolitan area instead. 

So it’s not surprising that metallurgical engineers’ biggest employers are independent engineering services. These facilities are usually privately-owned or privately managed, requiring engineers to look at their daily activities thoroughly. They can still work at the mines, but they are generally sitting in front of a computer in a lab or office, doing a combination of fieldwork and office work. 

At least 15 percent of metallurgical engineers work directly in mines, finding metal, ores and alloy. Otherwise, they handle and supervise mining operations with their employees or co-engineers. These metallurgical engineers spend more time at the field or mines instead of sitting in the comfort of an office or in front of a desk. Meanwhile, 11 percent is employed at gas and oil extraction sites, and the 10 percent of metallurgical engineers working in the coal industry perform the exact amount of work and effort. There’s also at least 11 percent of engineers specializing in support activities for mines, both in the field and in an office.

How Much Do Metallurgical Engineers Make?

Metallurgical engineer salaries in Canada as of this writing average out to about $88,567 per year. This job pays well and is worth the physical effort and required thinking skills. This means that the average metallurgical engineer in Canada gets at least $39 per hour. Of course, that yearly salary can change depending on your current location, how skilled you are at your job, your education, and your experience. 

Engineering in itself is already a job that requires much of your time and dedication. Among all types of engineers out there, engineering in resources has got to be the highest one among all of it, not to mention the most profitable. When it comes to this type of role, the largest paying sector has got to go from the gas and oil industry since they’re known to pay, as of this writing, $138,380 a year. Certain support activities can help you further increase your yearly salary. A job in metal ore mining is paid just beneath the median, while salaries for metallurgical engineers who harvest coal are given at least $91,320. 

Job opportunities for all metallurgical engineers are expected to increase by 8 percent in 2030. This is just as quick as the estimated growth for metallurgical engineer applicants (8 percent), as well as those who already work in the industry (7 percent). There are now more and more industries that concentrate on innovation, such as medicine and aerospace, and many are constantly looking for metallurgical engineers to work for them. But many of these engineers prefer to work at mines or offices, which are predicted to decline a few decades from now.