A material scientist is employed by businesses, universities, and government organizations to analyze the structure of materials and create new chemical components. Material scientists generally have earned at least an undergraduate degree, and most have a Masters or PhD in material science or a related field, such as chemical engineering. New materials created by material scientists include alloys, polymers, and synthetic chemicals.
Most of the work done by a material scientist is conducted in a laboratory environment. Given current technology, many of the experimental processes involved in material science can be conducted using computer modeling and software. A material scientist works with both new and existing synthetic materials. The materials made by a material scientist are used in plastics, electronic components, adhesives, and in chemical processing.
Places that employ material scientists include computer manufacturing firms, biotechnology businesses, and oil and gas companies. Material scientists may also choose to work at a university as a professor, both teaching and conducting new chemical research. Most jobs and positions require a doctoral degree, but some companies may allow a Masters degree with sufficient research and job experience. Individuals with undergraduate degrees in chemical engineering and material science may be employed as laboratory assistants, depending on company requirements.
Material scientists usually work in a team with other individuals to conduct experiments and run laboratory tests. Many times there will be multiple projects running concurrently, so time management and organizational skills are necessary. Record keeping and attention to detail are crucial to the job. The ability to interpret experimental results and apply them to a project is also necessary.
The acquisition of equipment and materials needed in experiments to develop new chemicals is also sometimes part of a material scientist's job description. Scientists may also be responsible for grant applications to receive research and development funding, and may also be in charge of planning and allocating a laboratory's budget. Material scientists have to adhere to safety standards, both in the laboratory environment and in the creation of new chemicals and materials, to make sure all regulations are enforced and followed.
Individuals interested in becoming a material scientist should begin first by completing an undergraduate degree in chemistry, biology, engineering, or other related field. As admission to graduate school is generally necessary to advance in the field, competitive grades and test scores may be important. Earning experience working in a laboratory environment should be a top priority during both undergraduate and graduate education. Once employed as a material scientist, it may be necessary to work beyond the typical 40 hour work week in order to meet project deadlines.