Metallurgical Technician  What They Do

Just the Facts

Insider Info

dotMetallurgical technicians test and analyze materials and structures. They tend to work for material testing labs and commercial testing labs.

dotSome 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.

dotA 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.

dotAccording 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 microscopy.

People working in this field might also examine samples using techniques such as energy dispersive X-ray, tension or radiography.

dotIt'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 equipment.

dotThe 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."

dotAccording 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.

At a Glance

Test the structure and strength of steel and other materials

  • Technicians tend to work for testing labs
  • You have to be careful about cleanliness in the lab
  • Related training is available