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Chem. E vs. Mat. E

  1. Mar 27, 2013 #1
    I am currently having to make choices on a graduate program, and I am having a tough time deciding between chemical and material engineering. Both seem to offer highly competitive salaries and employment opportunities, but it seems to me that working as a chemical engineer would mainly be a job that keeps things under control. Design processes, manage heat transfer, etc. whereas a material engineer seems more of one to be heavy in R&D and the person who constantly is working on the cutting edge of new technologies that may have world changing potential. If I could ask,would some of you working in either field give a little feedback to my concerns as well as some things that you thought your job would offer but didn't. Thanks guys/gals.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 27, 2013 #2


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    Surely the material engineer is mostly engaged in selecting the most cost effective, best characterized materials available for the job at hand. Outside of academe, it would be rare to be working with all new materials with dramatically better properties, simply because such stuff is usually too costly and its durability still unproven.
    Maybe you could ask your professors for introductions to a few of their former students so you can get a more real world perspective on the pros and cons of these careers.
  4. Mar 29, 2013 #3
    In my experience, chemical engineers find work more easily than materials engineers.

    For me, the kick in materials engineering comes from finding that, based on material property requirements, the best material is often not the one conventionally used or even the most cost effective.

    For example, a friend needed a material for investment casting patterns. The requirements are:
    Low melting point, low solidifcation shrinkage, low cost, water soluble and no residue to burn out. The conventional material is wax and it fails on the last three counts. The solutions are simple, if you apply your materials engineering knowledge.

    You don't need to be in academia or R&D to do innovative work in materials; there are plenty of practical applications looking for materials solutions that don't need a cent of research funding.

    You don't need to be on the cutting edge to do good work in materials engineering. I have found solutions to modern day problems using stuff that was cutting edge 50 years ago.

    I graduated some 40 years ago and would need at least another lifetime to get through the opportunities that are presenting themselves today.

    I hope you get a post from a Chemical Engineer who is as pumped about his subject as I am about Materials Engineering.
  5. Mar 31, 2013 #4
    What is your long term career goal ? A R&D job or a non R&D job ? If non R&D job, then techincal or non-technical ? Which country are you from - a 1st world or 3rd world one? The answer depends on many factors like these. The more detail you provide, better is the answer.

    The shortest answer is go for Chemical Engineering

    1. R&D job, if you want you can do almost all of the projects that a materials engr do and you can do core chemical engg stuffs also.
    2. If technical job but non R&D, opportunity is more in chemical as there are more industries (?)
    3. If non technical (MBA, Finance, Consultancy etc), then you can choose either of them.

    Best of luck !!
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2013
  6. Mar 31, 2013 #5
    Cosmicraga, thanks for the info! If you don't mind me asking, is either of these fields your current field?

    At any rate, I live in the US and would be able finish with a Master's by 2016 if I took the Chem. Eng. route. Mat. Eng. would be a longer and potentially more costly route.

    I do enjoy R&D but not so much that I would want to live for research. I am much more of a hands on type of person. I enjoy seeing tangible things that I have built or designed. Also, I have no desire for managerial living so #3 is out.

    How do you guys think employment outlook is for a Chem Eng? A lot of sites I have found say that there is a potential decrease is demand for Chem Eng as most companies outsource work for a cheaper price, but for every site that says that, one other site says it is one of the safest job industries to be in. I know salaries are very good for a Chem. Eng., but what about future job security?

    Thanks for all the info guys/gals!
  7. Mar 31, 2013 #6
    My Bachelor and Master degrees are in Materials and PhD in chemical engg.
  8. Mar 31, 2013 #7
    Cos, is it worth the extra 3-5 years after a Master's in Chem. E. to get a PhD if you aren't interested in academia later on?
  9. Apr 1, 2013 #8
    It depends on where you are heading to.

    PhD is a TRAINING which teaches you (well, nobody teaches you anything, you yourself have to learn, follow Phd commics for reference ;)) how to do research, nothing more generally, though there are exceptional people who have done original resaerch during their PhD itself, but those are exceptions. You can carry those training, which will make you more mature, with you lifelong.

    These are my personal experiences, others may have different ones.

    In general, if you are sure that you are not inetested in academia, then do better use your time in appropriate arena.
  10. Apr 1, 2013 #9
    If you are not sure about investing time in a PhD, you may want to consider supplementing your technical Masters with a business degree. The advice I got was to go for a Masters in business if I didn't want to go into academia.

    At the time, I had no plans to go into business for myself but, two redundancies later, my hand was forced.

    It's tough holding down a job and doing a business degree for four years but it worked out for me.
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