Metallurgists study metals, including their structure, production and uses. They use their knowledge to produce, process and apply metals in areas such as mining, the metal industries, civil engineering and manufacturing.
As a Metallurgist, you will study and develop the uses of metals and alloys, including steel, iron, nickel and aluminium. You will research and develop the use of metals in a number of areas, including civil engineering, and the aircraft, motor and defence industries.
You might be also involved in the design and production of large structures such as aircraft and chemical plant, as well as smaller metal parts and products like razor blades, castings and pressings.
You may specialise in chemical, physical or process metallurgy.
Chemical Metallurgists study the chemistry of metals, including how to extract them from ore and recycle scrap metal from obsolete products. You will also test metals for signs of corrosion, for example, working in the aircraft, nuclear or oil and gas industries. You could produce plans to monitor and test for corrosion, often leading teams of Technicians in repair work.
Physical Metallurgists test the reaction of metals to different conditions, including temperature, pressure and stress.
In many industries, high performance metals are vital; metals used in the aircraft industry must be strong, light and reliable, for example.
You will investigate signs of weakness caused by the gradual effects of stress (metal fatigue).
Metallurgists can use a variety of techniques to study a metal's physical structure and to assess its behaviour under different conditions. For example, you might subject a metal to very high temperatures and then use X-rays to see if the metal has changed internally.
Process Metallurgists control shaping methods such as casting, and joining processes, such as welding and soldering.
Wherever you work, you will use sophisticated technology, including lasers to cut through metals. You will also work with a lot of theoretical data, and can use computers to produce models of the structure of metals and the processes that act on them.
Metallurgists might have contact with customers, for example, explaining the uses of a new alloy to them. You can also advise sales and marketing teams. You might also travel to other countries to meet international clients.
Metallurgists often work in teams, alongside people like Engineers, Chemists, and other Materials Scientists and 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 Metallurgist, you'll need:
- an ability in physics and chemistry
- an interest in manufacturing and processing industries
- number skills, including the ability to use statistics to analyse experiments and model processes
- an investigative mind and a methodical approach to doing experiments
- ability to use sophisticated equipment and techniques, including computers and lasers
- to be prepared to spend time working in hot, noisy conditions
- ability to understand and follow health and safety procedures
Research Metallurgists must be willing to develop new knowledge, and keep up to date with technological advances throughout the world.
Metallurgists often work with Technicians and other Scientists, and with sales and marketing departments. This means they need good team skills, and an understanding of the market that uses your metal or product.
Pay and Opportunities
The pay rates given below are approximate.
- Starting: £30,500 - £34,000
- With experience: £37,000 - £45,500
- Senior Metallurgists earn £49,500 - £54,000
Hours of work
Metallurgists usually work a 39-hour week, Monday to Friday. You might have occasional late finishes, and shift work is common in production work.
Where could I work?
Employers are companies involved in metal extraction and metal processing, as well as companies that use metals in manufacturing. Other employers include firms involved in industrial processes, in engineering, telecommunications, gas, electricity, chemical, oil and nuclear power.
Research opportunities are in private industry, 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 (known in the past as the Building Research Establishment).
Opportunities for Metallurgists occur in towns and cities throughout the UK. There are also opportunities to work in other countries.
Some Metallurgists work as self-employed consultants.
Where are vacancies advertised?
Vacancies are advertised on the website of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining. They appear in scientific magazines and journals such as New Scientist (which also posts jobs on its website). Vacancies are also advertised through job boards and in national newspapers.
Entry Routes and Training
Usual entry is with a degree in metallurgy or materials science/technology.
Entry can be possible with an HND or foundation degree in a relevant science or engineering subject, although this is more likely to lead into a technician-level position.
Some universities offer degree courses with a foundation year. This is an extra year for students who don't have the specified science A levels for entry.
A great way to get into this career is through an internship. Take a look at our information article '
Training might be on-the-job, for example, in particular lab techniques or specialist equipment. Continuing professional development could involve going on short courses, teaching others, and going to conferences, seminars and workshops.
Some entrants have the relevant experience as a Metallurgist. Previous experience within materials technology or engineering would be helpful to get into this career.
Membership of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3) demonstrates competence as a professional Materials Scientist or Engineer.
Membership can lead to registration with the Engineering Council UK as a Chartered Engineer (CEng) or Incorporated Engineer (IEng). It can also lead to registration as a Chartered Scientist (CSci) with the Science Council and Chartered Environmentalist (CEnv) status through the Society for the Environment. Please see the IOM3 website for details on how to become a member.
Experienced Metallurgists can become self-employed consultants.
For entry to a degree in metallurgy, the usual minimum requirement is:
- 2/3 A levels, including two science subjects from maths, physics, chemistry and design and technology
- GCSEs at grade C/4 and above in your A level subjects
- a further 2/3 GCSEs at grade C/4 and above, including maths
Alternatives to A levels include:
- BTEC level 3 qualifications
- the International Baccalaureate Diploma
However, course requirements vary, so please check college/university websites very carefully.
Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A level.
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.
Some entrants have developed skills by working as technicians in the metal industries. Others have gained skills through industrial work placements.
If you don't have the qualifications needed to enter a degree, foundation degree or HND course, you might be able to start one after completing an Access course, for example, Access to Science. You don't usually need any qualifications to enter an Access course, although you should check this with the course provider.
A foundation year before the start of a science degree or HND is available at some universities and higher education colleges for students who don't have the science A levels usually needed for entry to the course.
Bradford College offers a foundation degree in Metallurgy and Materials, by distance learning.
The University of Sheffield offers a part-time postgraduate degree in Advanced Metallurgy.
Funding for the study of materials science/metallurgy is available from the Worshipful Company of Founders. Funding for postgraduate study and research is available, through universities, from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
- 18% of people in occupations such as metallurgy are self-employed.
- 5% work part-time.
- 13% have flexible hours.
- 4% of employees work on a temporary basis.
Skills for science, engineering and manufacturing technologies
Address: 14 Upton Road, Watford, Hertfordshire WD18 0JT
Tel: 0845 6439001
Publisher: Reed Business Information Ltd
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
Address: Polaris House, North Star Avenue, Swindon SN2 1ET
Tel: 01793 444000
Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3)
Address: 1 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5DB
Tel: 020 7451 7300
Worshipful Company of Founders
Address: Founders' Hall, Number One, Cloth Fair, London EC1A 7JQ
Tel: 01273 858700