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Materials Intensive Industries/Companies?

  1. Oct 27, 2014 #1
    Long post, read the TL;DR if you please!

    Hi everybody, first post here. Probably should have asked this much earlier, but I didn't find this site till just a few minutes ago.

    I'm a senior studying materials science and engineering, I'm planning to stay another year for a master's degree in materials science and engineering as well.

    I have an offer from one of the big three automotive companies for an internship, the consideration deadline for the offer is tomorrow afternoon.

    The salary is competitive (except against oil companies, but that's to be expected), relocation/housing and other benefits are pretty solid too. So I'm not worried on that front, in general I'm not too worried about salary/benefits for now, it's just an internship. The two things I am most focused on are:
    1. Will the work be interesting?
    2. Does the company have sufficient opportunities for full time in my field of interest (Materials).

    It's hard to say whether the work will be interesting, so worrying too much about point 1 probably gets me nowhere. All I know is I have a pretty strong interest in cars, I am not sure if the projects I'd be working on will be interesting though, that's still a crapshoot of sorts.

    So it really comes down to point 2. It's "just an internship", a phrase which I've heard probably 10 times today from my friends who are attempting to give career advice, but nevertheless we all know that the final year internship is the fast track to full-time entry level employment at said company.

    My big worry is how materials intensive the working in the automotive industry will be. I realize that the majority of the engineers in the automotive industry are mechanical or electrical engineers, but that's true of say, the aerospace industry too, yet I get the feeling that there is a greater focus and greater opportunities for working within materials in aerospace than in automotive. The companies which have the highest percentage of materials engineers to total engineers are probably steel or aluminum companies, followed by polymers companies in all likelihood. However having worked with steel this past summer I don't think it's the right fit for me (old industry, many locations are pretty remote/non-urban, etc.). Frankly I'm not marketable for polymers or ceramics at the moment either, work experience and research experience has all been in metals and metals processing thus far.

    So basically, what are more materials (and more specifically, metals) related engineering industries?

    So far I can think of the following:
    Primary Metals
    Aerospace and Defense
    Oil and Gas (Corrosion)
    Automotive (Maybe?)

    I just finished the final round of interviewing with one of the major oil companies for their materials/corrosion group, they are still in the process of deciding whom to give offers to, I don't think they'll have decided by tomorrow afternoon (one can always pray though...).

    In metals I'm basically only going to apply for the aluminum industry, as I feel I want to work on something other than steel.

    In aerospace the only major company that recruits materials interns from my school is Boeing, and at the moment (as of two years ago, a change in recruiting strategy) they only hire entry-level/intern materials engineers in the spring, so regardless the waiting game would have to be played for aerospace.

    TL;DR: I'm not sure the automotive industry does enough work within the field of materials for me to warrant spending my final summer internship working there. Can anybody confirm or deny? Can anybody suggest other more materials/metals intensive industries?

    Also any career advice, insights, experiences, etc. of any kind from those who have graduated from an undergrad/grad engineering program, especially materials, would be appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 28, 2014 #2
    I would honestly have to say that like everyone else: it is just an internship. If you don't want to work in it full time, get a recruiter or just search the job boards. When you go in to interview with those other companies, and they ask why you aren't staying, just be honest: you're passion is for materials.

    You are not obligated to stick with a company. Even though it might seem like you are, always understand that "the company will always do what's best for the company." If they have to cut you, there won't be any hesitation--and vice versa when opportunity knocks for you.

    The more important thing about the market is that you get a job, and you make ends meet until the right opportunity opens up.

    I work as an actuary--I love the work, but the field is so so. However, I could much more easily switch careers now that I have actual experience under my belt. I currently haven't, because I can't get better hours and workloads than what I currently have. Before this job, however, I took an internship that would have turned full time for a distribution company. I'd have been miserable though. But the opportunity put some coin in my pocket, AND it was the primary reason I got my current job which is completely different.
  4. Oct 28, 2014 #3


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    Science Advisor

    I think you missed one of the primary employers of materials scientists: the semiconductor industry.

    Besides that I can give you one datapoint. In college I had a friend whose Dad was a physicist for GM. He worked on the properties of materials for tires. According to my friend materials as much as anything paces progress especially in tires and engines.
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