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Metallurgical Technician Job Description, Career as a Metallurgical Technician, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: High school plus two years of training

Salary: Median—$43,400 per year

Employment Outlook: Fair

Definition and Nature of the Work

Metallurgical engineering is a subdivision of materials engineering. "Materials" refers to substances such as metals, ceramics, plastics, semiconductors, and composites that are used in the development of products. Materials engineers are involved in selecting and creating materials that meet certain mechanical, electrical, and chemical requirements.

Metallurgy is the science and technology of metals. Metallurgical technicians are involved in the many processes that transform natural ores into finished metal products. Metals are generally found in ore, which is a mixture of metals and other substances. Metals are removed from ore and treated before they are ready to be made into finished products.

Most metallurgical technicians work in the iron and steel industry. Some work with other metals, such as aluminum or copper. Technicians are also employed by companies that manufacture goods containing metal, such as automobiles and electrical equipment. Some technicians work for government agencies.

Metallurgical technicians work as part of an engineering team. They usually assist metallurgical engineers, metallurgists, or materials scientists. Sometimes metallurgical technicians are called materials science technicians. They work in all phases of the development and production of metal goods. Some also work in related fields, such as technical sales.

Many metallurgical technicians work in research and development. They help engineers and scientists develop and test new processes and alloys. Alloys are created by fusing together a metal and one or more other elements. Steel, for example, is an alloy of iron and small amounts of carbon and other substances. Brass is an alloy that contains copper and zinc. Technicians measure the hardness, strength, flexibility, and other properties of metals and alloys. They build and test models of new metal processing equipment. They perform tests that show how metals and alloys change as they are heated, forged, or welded. Technicians test these materials to see how well they can be worked and how well they can withstand heat and corrosion. Metallurgical technicians use many kinds of special testing equipment, including hot-stage microscopes, spectrographs, metallographs, and X-ray machines. This equipment helps them to examine metal samples closely.

Some metallurgical technicians work in production. They often supervise crews operating the huge furnaces and other equipment used to remove fairly pure metals from ore or scrap materials. Technicians are sometimes in charge of crews operating equipment that converts the metals into materials needed by other industries. Wires and cables, I-beams, and sheets of aluminum are examples of these finished products. Some technicians make adjustments to complex machines such as the D-gun, or detonation gun, which is used to apply tiny particles of metallic mixtures to such goods as carving knives and the blades of jet engines. Technicians also work in quality control. They take samples of metals and alloys during production and test them to make sure that they are of high quality. They use equipment such as carbon analyzers, pyrometers, and special microscopes.

Education and Training Requirements

To become a metallurgical technician, you usually need to complete a two-year program in metallurgy or materials science. Some community colleges and technical institutes offer these programs.

Getting the Job

Your school placement office or your instructors may be able to help you find a job as a metallurgical technician. Your state employment service may also help you to find work in the field. You may find it necessary, however, to apply directly to firms that hire metallurgical technicians. Sometimes these firms list job openings in newspaper classifieds and job banks on the Internet.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

As they gain experience, technicians can advance to positions of more responsibility. Technicians in research, for example, are often promoted as they learn to use more complex testing equipment. Production technicians can take charge of larger crews. Technicians sometimes become supervisors of other technicians. They can also advance by transferring from one department to another. Production technicians, for example, may find opportunities in their company's research or marketing departments. Some technicians continue their educations and move into engineering jobs. The employment outlook for metallurgical technicians is only fair, because some industries that employ metallurgical technicians are expected to experience employment declines.

Working Conditions

Conditions vary with the kind of work done. Many metallurgical technicians spend most of their time in laboratories. They usually work as part of a team with other technicians, engineers, or scientists. They must use precise instruments and keep careful records. Laboratory technicians usually work thirty-five to forty hours a week. Quality control technicians may have to work rotating shifts. Technicians involved in production often work in plants with crews of workers. They may work rotating shifts and some overtime. Often these technicians must wear hard hats and protective clothing and glasses. Some metallurgical technicians belong to unions.

Metallurgical technicians should have an interest in science and mathematics. They must be careful workers who can handle a wide variety of equipment ranging from heavy furnaces to sensitive instruments. They should also be able to get along with scientists and engineers, as well as with production workers and the other technicians who may be part of their team.

Where to Go for More Information

American Iron and Steel Institute
1140 Connecticut Ave. NW, Ste. 705
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 452-7100

The American Society for Metals (ASM) International
9639 Kinsman Rd.
Materials Park, OH 44073-0002
(800) 336-5152

Earnings and Benefits

Salaries vary depending on the education and experience of the metallurgical technician, the location, and the kind of job. Metallurgical technicians earn salaries that are similar to those earned by other kinds of science and engineering technicians. In 2004 the median annual earnings of mechanical engineering technicians (used here as an estimate of a metallurgical technician's salary) was $43,400. Benefits usually include paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, and pension plans.

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