Materials science and engineering

Use your knowledge of materials’ structure and behaviour to develop products and solutions that can change our world for the better.

As a materials scientist and engineer, you’ll look at how materials behave, and how their structure controls their behaviour – in some cases developing new materials that will provide solutions to things like quantum computers and Net Zero energy.

Graduates are in demand in industries like:

  • aerospace
  • automotive
  • biomedical
  • construction
  • energy
  • healthcare
  • sports
  • sustainable development

You could work anywhere from small and medium enterprises (SMEs), start-ups and big business to academic research, via government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). There’s lots of variety in job roles too, from research and development, quality assurance, production and engineering, through to installation and maintenance.

You could enjoy an average starting salary in excess of £25,000 and work your way up to project management or technical sales. You could also decide to specialise in a particular material, or choose to work in research or consultancy.

The impact you could make
  • Develop a prototype for a new, scalable green energy product.
  • Create the next ‘smart fabric’ that will allow athletes even more comfort and durability in their clothing.
  • Build on existing nanotechnology that will take us further and more safely into outer space.
What you could study
  • Mathematics and computing
  • Performance of structural materials
  • Engineering practice
  • Fundamentals of processing
  • Structure of solids
  • Materials characterisation
  • Functional properties
  • Materials processing
  • Thermodynamics

Study options

Options to study in this field include:

Chat to a current materials science and engineering student

Chat to a current materials science and engineering student using UniBuddy.

Some conversation starters for you:

  1. Ask which modules they really enjoyed.
  2. Find out how easy it was for them to make friends on their course.
  3. Do they have any tips on your personal statement?
  4. Did they do anything to prep for uni before they went?
  5. Are there books, podcasts or YouTube channels they would recommend?

Chat to students powered by Unibuddy UCAS Media Service

Start your search now

Get your UCAS Hub

Your place to discover your options and research your future.

Sign up today
Example module
"Nanotech is my favourite module. The subject is a perfect mix between chemistry and physics for me."
First year materials science and engineering student, The University of Manchester
Example project
"Cool group project on material analysis at the moment. I enjoy doing lab work, so it was a fun experience."
Second year materials science and engineering student, The University of Sheffield

Subjects it's useful to have studied first

Some materials science and engineering courses or apprenticeships will have requirements for previous qualifications in certain subjects. Entry requirements vary, so always check with the provider.

Maths/Further maths
Design technology
Hard skills you'll develop
  • Project engineering
  • Project management
  • Procurement
  • New product development
Soft skills you'll develop
  • Communication
  • Management
  • Planning
  • Problem-solving
  • Innovation

Careers: Where it can take you

Find out more about your career prospects from studying materials science and engineering. The following information is based on a typical engineering professional role.

Available jobs
124,090 vacancies in the past year
4.79% growth over next 8 years
Average salary
Up to £63,830

What is a…. metallurgist?

You may never have heard of a metallurgist, but metallurgy – also known as metallurgical engineering – is the science of developing and making metals and alloys from raw materials like gold, silver, copper, steel, aluminium, nickel, and iron. These metals may be used as parts in machinery, electrical items, and medical devices, among others, and can range from nanotechnology to industrial scale products. Metallurgists have an important role to play in creating future technologies, and environmental sustainability. Just think about what your mobile phone is made of! 

Getting in: Entry requirements

Find out more about what you'll need to study materials science and engineering at university or as an apprenticeship.

Average requirements for undergraduate degrees

Entry requirements differ between university and course, but this should give you a guide to what is usually expected from materials science and engineering applicants.

A levels
Scottish Highers
Other Level 3/Level 6 qualifications (e.g. Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma or SQCF Level 6) may be accepted as an alternative

The expert view

Professor Alessandro Mottura, Co-Chair, Discover Materials
Materials science and engineering is an exciting and interdisciplinary field that combines physics, chemistry, and engineering to explore the universe of materials, and how materials are developed, manufactured and recycled. In this field, you will learn how different materials behave under various conditions, and how to manipulate them to make them even better, transforming cutting-edge technologies like electric cars, space travel, and medical implants that can change lives. As a graduate of materials ecience and engineering, you can expect to work in a huge range of sectors, making it an exciting and fulfilling career path with endless opportunities for growth and innovation.

Let's talk about... science apprenticeships (Sponsored by Manchester Metropolitan University)

Listen to our brand new podcast all about degree apprenticeships in science. Find out about funding, what day-to-day life is like, making friends, and more from our expert panel.

Considering an apprenticeship?

Applying for an apprenticeship is just like applying for a normal job. Here’s what you need to know:
  1. Deadline

    Apprenticeships don't follow the same deadlines as applying to uni, the deadline is down to the employer.
  2. Where to apply

    You apply directly through the employer.
  3. No limits

    You're not restricted to one apprenticeship application; you can do as many as you like.
  4. Apply to university and apprenticeships

    There's nothing stopping you applying to university through UCAS, while also applying for apprenticeship vacancies.

A day in the life of an Engineering Apprentice

Explore further

Go deeper into topics around materials science and engineering with the following.
  1. Discover Materials

    Lots of resources and activities on their website to help you delve into the world of materials science and engineering.
  2. Materialism Podcast

    A podcast all about materials science and engineering, hosted by associate professor Taylor Sparks from the University of Utah. 
  3. Materials Today

    A journal that features news on research and innovation, and articles of interest for people who are fascinated by or work in materials science. 
84% of students
are highly likely to recommend materials science and engineering to others, based on their experience of studying so far
(UCAS subject guide survey 2023)

Application advice

Whether it's personal statement tips or what to write in a cover letter for an apprenticeship application, our advice will help you get ahead in your materials science and engineering journey.
Skills, experiences, and interests to mention
  • tick!You’ll need to demonstrate a broad interest in fundamental science as well as design, manufacturing, and engineering. What books or journals have you read, or what content have you watched or listened to, that illustrates your passion and understanding of these areas?
  • tick!How can you show your natural curiosity about the subject? Maybe you’re a runner and you’re interested in how different fabrics absorb sweat? Or maybe you’re interested in sustainable mobile phones, and have been researching what they’re made of or how they could be improved?
  • tick!What about the practical side? Can you mention a school project or hobby outside of school that shows you have experience of how to assess a material’s performance, and/or look into how and what it’s made of?
  • tick!Can you demonstrate skills like planning and project management? Maybe you’ve had a part-time job or volunteering role outside of school that required these skills? Or is there any work experience you can draw on?
  • tick!What do you want to do with your degree? Maybe you want to work towards sustainability goals, or focus on nanotechnology? Show you understand the industry you’re heading into and some of the roles you could do within that.

Personal statement builder

Try our tool.

Get help structuring your statement.

Sign up today