A Guide on Studying Metallurgy Degrees
Studying a metallurgy degree requires a good head for sciences; the subject involves investigation of the chemical and physical properties of metallic elements, compounds and alloys. Metallurgy degrees also cover metal-related technologies, including extraction methods, use in industry and engineering, and metalworking processes such as casting, forging and sintering. Disciplines you may touch on include physics, chemistry, chemical engineering, engineering design and instrumentation technology.
Common skills gained from a materials sciences degree include:
- Ability to analyze complex data sets, and general analytical skill
- General laboratory skills
- Teamwork and communication skills
- Numeracy and technology literacy
- Presenting findings in written and spoken form, to an acceptable academic standard
- An understanding of scientific literature and how to use it
- Problem identification and resolution
Areas of Specialisation for a Metallurgy Degree
Three or four years may seem a long time to dedicate entirely to the study of metals at university. But, while metallurgy is often offered as part of a broader materials science course, in fact it incorporates a diverse range of different skills, subject areas and applications. Some of the areas you might choose to focus on include:
1. Physical metallurgy
This is the study of the properties and forms of different metals, how they respond to different conditions, and various types of change they can undergo. Specialism in this field will also involve learning how to use a range of methods for examining metals, such as thermal analysis, mechanical testing, diffuse X-ray scattering and transmission electron microscopy (lots of impressive-sounding words to impress your friends and family).
2. Chemical metallurgy
Unsurprisingly, this involves looking at the chemical properties of metals, and chemical transformations. It may also include the use of chemical processes to extract and refine metals.
3. Engineering and process metallurgy
This is the study of metals as used in engineering processes. This may include the production of alloys, shaping, and an awareness of the effects of different processes on metallic properties, such as brittleness caused by cold or cryogenic conditions.
Careers Opportunities in materials sciences
Broadly speaking, it’s possible to divide metallurgists into those who specialize in physical, chemical and process metallurgy – but in practice these roles overlap. All three fields can be either office based or more hands-on, spanning the whole design and manufacturing timeline including research, design, manufacture, production management and quality control.
For example, metallurgists may carry out theoretical research, conduct analyses using specialist computer software, produce reports and give advice on how to achieve desired outcomes such as increased strength or reduced corrosion. Metallurgists may also oversee processes such as casting and soldering, develop new parts and prototypes, and carry out quality and safety control tests.