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Job Photographs

  • A man, wearing blue overalls, is sitting at a table.  He is writing on a sheet of paper.

    Keeping records of quality assurance checks.

  • A man, wearing a blue overall, is standing in a workshop.  He is operating a piece of equipment.

    Checking the strength of the material.

  • A man, wearing blue overalls, is operating various pieces of machinery.

    Using specialist testing equipment.

  • A man, wearing blue overalls, is standing in a workshop.  He is using a piece of equipment.

    Taking measurements.

  • A man, wearing a white lab coat, is standing at a workbench.  He is looking at small piles of materials.

    Classifying different materials.

  • A woman, wearing a white lab coat, is standing in a laboratory.  She is performing an experiment.

    Using computer related equipment to test samples.

  • Materials Technician

Materials Technician

Introduction

Materials technicians support the work of materials scientists/technologists. They help to research and develop new materials, test how they react under different conditions (such as temperature and stress) and tackle problems such as corrosion.

Work Activities

As a Materials Technician, you can be working in any area that produces or uses materials, such as:

  • manufacturing industries
  • shipbuilding
  • oil refineries
  • aeronautical
  • civil engineering

You will carry out routine tests to find out about the material, for example, its strength, weight, flexibility, reliability and impact on the environment. Technicians could also be helping to work out the cost of producing a material. A routine test might involve using electron microscopes or X-rays to see inside a material, to study how it has been changed by a high temperature.

Where a material is already in use, for example, as part of an aircraft, bridge or dam, the testing has to be 'non-destructive'. This means doing a test that does not harm the material, so it, and the structure or product, can still be used afterwards.

Non-destructive testing methods include using liquids and dyes to reveal cracks, and ultrasound to gather information from inside the material. Areas of investigation include corrosion and metal fatigue.

You have to record your results carefully. You can often use computers to input, analyse and display results. A Senior Materials Technician might interpret the results and write a report for Scientists and Technologists.

Apart from routine testing, you look after the day-to-day running of the laboratory. This includes:

  • setting up and clearing away equipment
  • keeping an eye on equipment stock levels
  • ordering new equipment when needed
  • removing laboratory waste

Materials Technicians work alongside Scientists, Technologists, Engineers and other Technicians.

Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.

Personal Qualities and Skills

To become a Materials Technician, you will need:

  • practical skills
  • an interest in using science
  • to be curious and enjoy testing things to find out more about them
  • a patient, thorough and methodical approach to experiments
  • willingness to do routine tests, paying close attention to detail at all times
  • good number skills to take measurements, and record and analyse experiment results
  • computer skills for recording results
  • the ability to explain your findings clearly
  • communication and teamwork skills to work alongside Scientists, Engineers and other Technicians

Depending on the testing methods used, you might need good colour vision.

Pay and Opportunities

Pay

The pay rates given below are approximate.

  • Starting: £22,000 - £22,500
  • With experience: £24,000 - £26,500
  • Senior Materials Technicians earn £29,500 - £32,500

Hours of work

Materials Technicians usually work 39 hours a week, Monday to Friday. You might have occasional late finishes, and shift work is common in production work.

Where could I work?

Employers are producers of:

  • metals
  • plastics
  • polymers
  • synthetic rubbers
  • natural and man-made fibres
  • ceramics
  • glass

Other employers are firms that use materials, including engineering industries, telecommunications, gas, electricity, chemical, oil and nuclear power companies.

Research opportunities are in private industry, in university laboratories, industrial research associations, contract research laboratories and government laboratories, such as the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), the National Physical Laboratory and BRE (which used to be known as the Building Research Establishment).

Opportunities for Materials Technicians occur in towns and cities throughout the UK. There are also opportunities to work in other countries.

This career could involve working for a agency.

Where are vacancies advertised?

Vacancies are advertised on the website of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining. They also appear in scientific magazines and journals such as New Scientist (which also posts jobs on its website), on job boards, in local/national newspapers, at Jobcentre Plus and on the Find a Job website.

Entry Routes and Training

Entry routes

Entry is usually into a trainee position or after completing a relevant full-time college course.

It is possible to enter through an Advanced Level Apprenticeship, for example, in engineering construction, polymer processing operations, or metal processing. Take a look at our information article 'Apprenticeships – How do I apply', for more details about applying for apprenticeship positions.

Full-time college courses include BTEC level 3 qualifications in science or engineering subjects.

Some entrants have developed skills and knowledge through experience in relevant industries.

Training

If you would like some training, you can study the level 3 NVQ diploma/extended diploma in materials processing and finishing. The units you could be studying include:

  • mould and core making
  • casting metal
  • casting inspection
  • pressure die casting
  • surface finishing
  • plastic injection moulding
  • heat treatment

Other courses could be available in your area.

Work Experience

Previous experience working in Engineering, or manufacturing process industries would be really useful to become a Materials Technician.

Progression

You could be promoted to a Team Leader or Supervisor position.

Membership of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining demonstrates your competence and can lead to registration with the Engineering Council as an Engineering Technician (EngTech).

To register with the Institute as a Technician, you'll usually need a relevant BTEC level 3 qualification or equivalent.

Qualifications

Entry to a trainee position is usually with at least 4 GCSEs (A* - C or 9 - 4), including English, maths and a science subject, or equivalent.

Some entrants have A levels in relevant subjects, including sciences, design and technology, and engineering, or equivalent qualifications. Some employers ask for university-level qualifications such as HNDs, foundation degrees or degrees in materials science/technology and other relevant areas.

Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A level.

Adult Opportunities

Age limits

It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.

Skills/experience

Some entrants have developed skills through experience in engineering, or manufacturing process industries (for example, as an operative) in areas such as polymers, plastics or ceramics.

Courses

Colleges will usually consider applications from adults who don't meet their usual entry requirements. You should check the admissions policy of individual colleges.

Advanced Level Apprenticeships in areas such as Engineering Construction, Polymer Processing Operations and Metal Processing might be available in your area.

Bradford College offers a foundation degree in metallurgy and materials, by distance learning.

Statistics

  • 14% of people in occupations such as materials technician work part-time.
  • 24% have flexible hours.
  • 11% of employees work on a temporary basis.

Further Information

Apprenticeships: Get In. Go Far

National Apprenticeship Service (NAS)

Tel: 0800 015 0400

Email: nationalhelpdesk@findapprenticeship.service.gov.uk

Website: www.apprenticeships.org.uk

Skills Development Scotland - Modern Apprenticeships

Tel: 0800 9178000

Email: info@skillsdevelopmentscotland.co.uk

Website: www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships

Semta

Skills for science, engineering and manufacturing technologies

Address: 14 Upton Road, Watford, Hertfordshire WD18 0JT

Tel: 0845 6439001

Email: customerservices@semta.org.uk

Website: www.semta.org.uk

The Engineer

Engineering technology news

Email: customerservices@theengineer.co.uk

Website: www.theengineer.co.uk

New Scientist

Publisher: Reed Business Information Ltd

Email: ns.subs@quadrantsubs.com

Website: www.newscientist.com

Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3)

Address: 1 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5DB

Tel: 020 7451 7300

Website: www.iom3.org

Careers Wales - Welsh Apprenticeships

Tel: 0800 028 4844

Website: ams.careerswales.com/

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