What Does a Metallurgical Engineer Do?

Many metallurgical engineers oversee work on products made of metal in a manufacturing facility.
Most metallurgical engineers have a background in mechanical or chemical engineering.
Metallurgy is the study of ore mining and extraction of valuable metals.
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  • Written By: Cassie L. Damewood
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 08 May 2015
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A metallurgical engineer usually works in the steel and iron business, either in the processing of raw materials or in an industry that manufactures machinery or products made of metal. He often develops different processing methods for metal to more economically and easily turn it into useful products. Although steel and iron are the most common metals worked with by a metallurgical engineer, a smaller percentage work exclusively with aluminum or copper.

Much like metallurgists or metallurgical scientists, metallurgical engineers use advanced equipment such as X-ray devices, spectrographs, and electron microscopes in their research and development. They are required to keep abreast of all the latest advancements in related scientific and technical fields. Their work may be confined to a laboratory or require travel to remote sites and plants.

The two main types of metallurgy are physical and extractive. The former concentrates on the physical properties and structures of alloys and metals. The latter is devoted to separating metal from ore.

Physical metallurgical engineers are dedicated to developing of new alloys and production processes for welding, alloying, melting, and casting. Since most metals cannot be utilized in their purest forms, it is necessary to create combinations, or alloys, that can provide strong yet lightweight metal for car bodies and electronic devices among other items. This type of metallurgical engineer most often works in labs or manufacturing operations.


Extractive metallurgical engineers create and oversee extraction processes and usually work closely with mining engineers. They then refine these metals and often come up with new alloys for various applications. Their typical work setting is a laboratory, steel mill, ore treatment plant, or refinery.

Both types of metallurgical engineers must be comfortable working independently and as an integral part of a team. Meetings are often required with a wide range of personnel, from mining foremen to plant supervisors. The position requires above average aptitude in math and science and a dedication to keeping up on industry developments and advancements. Good oral and written communication skills are needed to be a good team member and clearly explain ideas and concepts to others.

An undergraduate degree is the minimum education required to be a metallurgical engineer and study in materials science, metallurgical engineering, or metallurgy is preferred. Some jobs require an advanced degree, and many professionals in this field choose to continue their studies while working. Employers sometimes pay for or contribute to tuition costs to help an engineer's job performance or to increase job-related knowledge.


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Post 3

@goldenbears - First of all, let me say thank you for working under such dangerous conditions. People often times do not realize how much work goes into digging out the materials that we need in our daily lives. If people will just look around the room that they are in right now, they will find at least one thing that had to be extracted from a mine.

If you want to continue working with metals, then I would suggest that you become a science teacher. Depending on your education, you can even get a job in a community college as a professor. I think it is important that you spread your love of metals with the next generation of scientists and engineers. Giving back feels good.

I hope your health gets better, and good luck on your future endeavors.

Post 2

Anyone who works in mines, like metallurgical engineers do, are putting themselves in great danger. Not only can something go wrong in the mine, as in it caves in or an explosion happens, but the fumes that you breathe in are dangerous to your health.

I have been working in iron mines for over 15 years, and I have started to develop breathing problems. My wife has been hoping that I would find somewhere else to work, but I love working outdoors. However, my health is in jeopardy, so I think my time in the mines is up.

Now, I have to find a job in which I can apply my love for the precious metals of the earth's surface.

Post 1

My brother has been a metallurgical engineer for a number of years now. I never understood what he did until reading this article. Thanks for posting it.

Based on what I have read, I think he works as an extractive metallurgic engineer. He spends all day out in mines, figuring out ways to extract iron from the ground. It is extremely dangerous work, and I pray for him every day.

Somebody has to do it. Our society is literally built on the metals that he extracts from the ground every day.

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