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METALLURGICAL TECHNOLOGY

When was the last time you were in contact with something made of metal? Maybe you are wearing a gold chain or earrings right now. Maybe the water you showered with this morning travelled through copper pipes. Maybe you used steel cutlery to eat your breakfast or lunch.

Metal is everywhere, and before we are able to use it, it has to be recovered from minerals in the Earth's crust. This involves mineral processing, which is one aspect of metallurgy.

Here is how it works. Ores are mined and processed to recover a certain mineral. Then, through extractive metallurgy involving high temperatures, aqueous solution chemistry or electrolytic methods, that mineral concentrate is turned into a pure metal. Metals are then processed by casting, rolling, forging, extruding, powder forming and fabricating into useful shapes and products.

Metal and alloy properties can also be modified at the atomic level by thermal and mechanical processes, such as case hardening, heat treatment and explosive forming.

As a metallurgical technologist, you might be involved at any stage of these complex processes - researching, planning, directing, controlling or managing these operations. You might work in the areas of corrosion analysis, foundry product quality, heat treatment methods, assays (assessing purity) or sales.

Some of the activities you might do as a technologist are:

  • Test material samples for microstructure and properties
  • Design processes to achieve target results
  • Train operators in carrying out processes Operate and maintain laboratory equipment for metallography
  • Determine causes of failure in metal products
  • Design methods to prevent corrosion

As a technician, you would assist in such areas as:

  • Analyzing microstructures
  • Operating lab equipment
  • Running non-destructive tests such as ultrasonic or x-rays

Where Will You Work?

As a metallurgical technologist or technician, you work in an office and/or lab environment. Typically, you would keep a regular Monday to Friday work week, with some extra hours when there are deadlines to meet.

You could work in a heat treatment facility, foundry, consulting engineering firm, industrial lab, steel distribution, metal fabrication or processing company.

Related areas you could branch into include quality control, technical sales or production management.

How Much Will You Earn?

Technologist: $75,000/yr

How Does the Future Look?

Metallurgy is a relatively stable area, but it is somewhat dependent on the manufacturing economy. There may be some growth in the industry as government starts to encourage secondary manufacturing.

How Can You Get Started?

In high school, be sure to take courses in physics, math and chemistry. Practice your analytical skills and learn to keep accurate records of your observations.

What Will You Need?

To enjoy working as a metallurgical technologist or technician, you need to enjoy hands-on work in a lab setting. You need a mechanical aptitude and have a strong commitment to keeping accurate records. You need to develop your analytical skills, and enjoy math and science.

Post Secondary Possibilities

Check with your career facilitator or counsellor for other sources of information applicable to education options for this technology.

  • Salary figures indicated in the 'How Much Will You Earn?' section are extracted from ASTTBC's Member Compensation Survey or other Canadian sources applicable to the specific technology discipline. These figures are representative only; actual figures will vary depending on academic training, practical experience, job responsibilities and location of employment.
  • The TechWORKS! web site is an important online resource and provides links to career information that will be of interest to students pursuing a career in technology.

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