Metallurgical technicians test and analyze materials and structures. They
tend to work for material testing labs and commercial testing labs.
Some technicians work in analysis labs for the mining industry. They analyze
ore samples for content, impurities and so on.
Metallurgical technicians working in steel mills might draw samples of
the molten steel out of the batches, and then analyze those samples to ensure
the steel meets quality standards.
A typical example of work done by a metallurgical technician would be assessing
the strength of concrete that is to be used in building construction. The
builder would send a sample of the concrete to a testing lab, and a technician
would test it to determine the durability.
"The technician performs the test, organizes the data that comes from the
analysis and delivers the data to the staff person responsible for reporting
back to the builder," says Scott Pawelka. He is the chief technical officer
in the metallurgical engineering department at the Colorado School of Mines.
According to East Tennessee State University's website, metallurgical technicians
conduct metallurgical procedures to determine the physical properties and
characteristics of metal and alloy samples. Tasks include selecting samples
to be prepared as well as preparing, mounting and polishing samples.
Metallurgical technicians make photographic records of samples using technologies
such as reflected light microscopy, vacuum procedures and scanning electron
People working in this field might also examine samples using techniques
such as energy dispersive X-ray, tension or radiography.
It's important to have a good knowledge of occupational hazards and safety
precautions. "Lab safety and cleanliness is very important," says Rachael
Cohen. She is a metallurgical technician at the Colorado School of Mines.
Metallurgical technicians write lab reports as well as clean and maintain
The field of biomaterials is promising and wide open, Pawelka says. Biomaterials
are metals, alloys and materials like polymer that will work successfully
with living tissue. They're used with implants and replacement structures.
"It's a sister discipline of metallurgy."
The field of solar energy is also promising, according to Pawelka. For
the past 20 years, there has been a push to develop solar cells that generate
electricity more efficiently. Currently, the most efficient cells commercially
available are in the 15 to 18 percent range. Cells that are more efficient
are needed for satellite technology.
Cohen believes that work opportunities for metallurgical technicians are
growing. "If you keep your skills updated, especially on computer control
instruments, and expand your expertise into other materials like ceramics
or plastics, it'll be a growing field."
According to Pawelka, a person with a mobility disability could work in
this occupation. "They could perform most or all aspects of the job from a
wheelchair," he says.