Materials Science and Engineering is a rapidly growing, multidisciplinary activity that has emerged as a recognizable field in recent decades. Scientists and engineers in this field lay the basis for understanding, developing, testing, and applying materials that form the foundation for present and future technologies—such as ceramic engines for the automotive industry, semiconductor devices for the microelectronic industry, and polymers and composite materials for various industries, including sports and automotive industries. More significantly, the choice and power of future human endeavors will depend critically on the development of improved and environmentally sound materials, whether as inexpensive and highly efficient solar cells for clean power generation or as radiation-resistant alloys for fusion reactor walls.
Although over half a million scientists and engineers currently are working in the materials field, only about 10 percent of them hold materials-designated degrees. (The remainder include chemists, physicists, electrical engineers, chemical engineers, and mechanical engineers). As such there is demand for—and the field will benefit from—scientists and engineers, who take the multidisciplinary materials science approach from the start of their professional careers.
It turns out that virtually every industry you can think of employs materials scientists and engineers. Specifically, they are involved in working with one or more of the major classes of materials for various companies (materials include metals, ceramics and glasses, polymers, semiconductors and other electronic materials, and composites). A degree in materials science and engineering will enable you to be involved in jobs concerned with producing, selecting, testing, and developing new materials with desirable properties, lower cost, or lower environmental impact. Incidentally, students with B.S. degrees in Materials Science and Engineering, along with Chemical Engineers, typically enjoy some of the highest starting salaries among the established engineering fields.