Field of Study: Metallurgical Technology
Metallurgical technology programs prepare people to help engineers study and develop metals used in industry. Students learn principles of metallurgy. They also learn how to inspect and test metals.
Did you ever bend a piece of metal back and forth until it broke? You probably thought the bending was making the metal softer, thus allowing it to break. Actually, it was making the metal harder and thus more brittle. This is just one example of the often-surprising properties of metals.
As a metallurgical technician, you may play a variety of roles. You may help engineers in experiments on new alloys or methods of refining metals. Your knowledge of scientific methods lets you run chemical tests on the materials. You may also test them using an electron microscope or a magnetic instrument. You may gather data on rates of corrosion under various conditions. Or you may test how the material fails under various stresses. You may write reports on your findings.
You may work in construction, evaluating welds. For example, you may do x-ray tests to ensure that welds in a petroleum pipeline are free of defects.
Your academic preparation starts with science and math. You need to understand the chemical and physical properties of the metals you work with. You also need to become proficient at applying the scientific method to the problems you need to solve. After this background, you study the specific methods that are used to gather data about metals. You learn testing procedures, and you also study common ways metals are shaped, such as machining and welding. You learn how the properties of the metals affect the way they respond to these processes. You also learn how to evaluate the results.
You study these subjects for two years full-time beyond high school. This earns you an associate degree. About 30 colleges in the U.S. offer this program.