What is a metallurgist?
Metallurgists work to extract and process various metals, ferrous or non-ferrous. Ferrous metals are those which contain iron and steel, while non-ferrous metals don’t contain any iron or iron components. By investigating and examining the properties of different metals (aluminium, iron, steel, to name a few), you’ll be able to use them to produce brand new devices. It’s an exciting career path, with the opportunity to be at the forefront of new technologies.
What types of metallurgists are there?
There are three specialism opportunities within the sector. Chemical metallurgists (sometimes known as extractive metallurgists) study the origins of a metal, the chemical composition of different ores, and different extraction methods.
Physical/structural metallurgists study the structure and properties of different metals, by monitoring reactions to temperature, pressure and general stress. This speciality is most involved in inventing new products.
Finally, process metallurgists are responsible for shaping and connecting metals, and deciding the best metal for different projects.
What are the typical responsibilities of a metallurgist?
Chemical metallurgists are responsible for designing and maintaining processes to separate metals from ore, ensuring metals meet quality and safety requirements, and developing ways to improve metals.
Physical metallurgists are responsible for assessing the physical properties and behaviour of metals, investigating accidents where metallurgical failure is suspected, and showing their findings in reports.
Process metallurgists design metal components and prototypes, join metals using welding and soldering, and control the shape of metals.
General responsibilities across the three specialisms include: using computer software to carry out analysis, interpreting design drawings, monitoring potential health and safety issues, researching new products and technologies, and highlighting findings within reports and manuals.
Who typically employs metallurgists?
Metallurgists can seek employment within a range of employers. Examples include: the Ministry of Defence, copper manufacturers, energy suppliers, steel manufacturers and suppliers of precious metals. A range of organisations are involved in the production or processing of metals, so there are a number of opportunities available.
What skills do I need to be a successful metallurgist?
You’ll need: team working skills, communication skills for writing reports, numeracy skills, problem-solving ability to troubleshoot technical issues, and technical competence. Foreign language skills are also an asset, particularly if you’d like to work for a multinational company.
How do I become a metallurgist?
To enter the field, you’ll need an undergraduate degree in a relevant subject, such as physics, chemical engineering or materials science. Having a degree accredited by a relevant body (such as the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining) is useful, as it will help you achieve chartered engineer status. It’s also possible to enter the field with a HND in General Engineering (Mettalurgy), although you’ll need to work your way up from a technician role. Regardless, this option is cheaper than doing a degree, and you'll be able to start working faster.
To secure a research position, you’ll benefit from having a master’s or PhD.