How Do I Get a PhD in Materials Engineering?

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  • Written By: M.C. Huguelet
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 28 June 2019
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Materials engineers study the makeup, behavior, production, and applications of materials. While the exact route to getting a PhD in materials engineering can vary from country to country, in the United States you must begin by completing the necessary educational prerequisites and applying to a PhD program. Once accepted, you will generally be required to take a number of classes and then pass an examination. Next, you will need to choose and successfully defend a research problem, and then carry out original research that addresses that problem. Finally, you must defend your research before a committee and submit a written thesis.

In general, applicants to a PhD in materials engineering program must have completed certain educational prerequisites. Usually, applicants must have a bachelor’s degree in materials engineering or a related subject. It should be noted that, as PhD programs tend to be rigorous, most universities prefer applicants with a strong undergraduate grade point average. If you fulfill these prerequisites, you can apply to materials engineering PhD programs, a process which may include filling out forms, sourcing letters of recommendation, taking an entrance examination, and completing an interview.


After you have been accepted to a PhD in materials engineering program, you will generally begin your course of study by taking a number of core classes and electives in areas such as thermodynamics and materials composition. When you have completed these classes, you will in most cases be required to successfully pass a qualifying examination before you can move forward with your degree. This examination typically takes the form of a paper that analyzes existing research in materials engineering. It may also involve a question-and-answer session with a committee of examiners from your department.

Once you pass your qualifying examination, you will enter a new phase of your PhD in materials engineering program in which you begin to direct your own research. The first step of this phase usually involves devising an original research problem. In most cases, you will need to write a detailed report describing your problem, summarizing existing research in the area and explaining how you will approach the problem. You will then need to present your proposal before a committee of materials engineers.

If your proposal is accepted, you will then begin devising and carrying out experiments in an attempt to address your research problem. Once you have explored your research problem thoroughly, you must then present the results of your research to a committee of academics, and may also be required to lead an undergraduate or public seminar in which you discuss your project and your conclusions. Finally, you must submit a written thesis detailing your research to your university.



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