The Nanoengineering Career Path
There’s small, and then there’s nanoscale small. Defined as a billionth of a meter, the nanoscale – or nanoscopic scale – is used to measure atoms, particles and other components that are much too small to be viewed with the naked eye. Nanoscience represents an exciting and relatively new area of study that combines several different scientific disciplines, including engineering, chemistry, physics and biology. Nanoengineering furthers technology through large advancements of a very small nature.
For prospective engineers, a background in nanoscale science and engineering can be helpful whether you want to pursue a career specifically in nanoscience, or choose a more general engineering position. Many higher degree programs offer specifically tailored courses to prepare students for work in this area of expertise, which is becoming increasingly applicable across a number of industrial fields.
What is nanoscale engineering?
As the name suggests, nanoengineering is a branch of engineering that occurs on the nanoscale. The word “nanoengineering” is often used synonymously with the more general term “nanotechnology.” But the former technically focuses more closely on the engineering aspects of the field, as opposed to the broader science that is encompassed by the latter. A large portion of current engineering research is poured into nanotechnology, as it is one of the most important emerging technologies today. Arguably, only machine learning rivals its potential.
Focused on manipulating materials on an atomic level, nanoscale engineering uses a number of techniques to leverage this manipulation for industrial purposes. One is the patterning of materials, the process by which patterns are printed as guides on materials to deposit or remove substances on silicon wafers that are used in various electronics.
In January 2016, a report by Markets and Markets projected that the patterning material market will be worth $3.86 billion by 2020. Nanoscale materials of all types have the potential to transform various industries. With such high demand, now is the time to learn more about the intersection between nanoengineering and materials.
If you’re interested in being a part of this exciting movement toward nanoscopic materials with near-limitless application across numerous industries, consider completing a Master’s in Engineering degree that includes courses in nanotechnology. In addition to being both a challenging and fulfilling career choice, a position in the field of material science can be financially rewarding as well.
Numerous young, aspiring professionals are considering nanoengineering as their career. Those looking to pursue a career in nanoscale science and engineering will first need to acquire a bachelor’s degree in nanotechnology engineering, or a related field. Only some schools offer nanoengineering degrees, though mechanical, materials and similar engineering programs would fulfill education requirements just as well. In general, engineering courses cover similar fundamentals, such as mathematical and statistical training. Also common are courses in advanced level physics, chemistry, and other “hard sciences.” Bachelor’s degrees usually take around four years to complete.
For advanced engineering disciplines like nanoengineering, the pursuit of a master’s degree following a bachelor’s is recommended. The specialized field is also quite competitive, and those looking to score the highest-paying and most impactful jobs in the nanoengineering field need every edge they can get. Master’s degrees set you apart from the competition and give you the education you need to thrive in nanotechnology, as a strong grasp of both theory and practical applications is critical for trailblazers in emerging fields like this. Knowledge of molecular structures at the smallest scales and the synthesization of nanoscopic materials will be gained in these programs, as well as skills applicable to many different industries that might require nanotechnology.
Career outlook for nanoengineering
Master’s programs that offer nanoscale science and engineering courses will prepare you for a number of rewarding careers. These include positions in the following fields, among others:
- Health care and pharmaceutical
- Environmental and energy
Nearly any industrial field can benefit from a professional with a working knowledge of nanotechnology and the latest and greatest practices for working with materials at nanoscopic scales. One product in particular, nanopowders, are used in many high-technology fields, and a large amount of focus is being placed on making the process of producing them safer and more efficient, according to an excerpt of Advanced Nanomaterials and Coatings by Thermal Spray, 2019. Those looking to land secure jobs in an industry growing steadily more powerful should consider specializing in nanopowders.
In addition, the growing demand for engineers with a background in nanotechnology is particularly pronounced in electronics. As computers, phones and other devices become smaller, the components that fuel those devices and hold memories need to keep pace. Engineers working on the nanoscale are able to design and create components that are more efficient and cost-effective than ever before, which is extremely valuable across a variety of industries ranging from the medical field to the aerospace industry.
Nanotechnology is also an important part of job openings in the growing field of biomedical engineering. The BLS reported that the field is expected to grow by a respectable 4% between 2018 and 2028, following a period of explosive expansion from 2010 to present. In addition to the rewarding opportunities to create life-saving health care technology, biomedical engineers are well-compensated: The yearly average salary in 2018 was $88,550.
The BLS does not keep specific records for nanoengineering careers. However, in general, demand for engineers specialized in technology in the U.S. is fairly steady. According to the BLS, job openings for mechanical engineers are growing at a rate of about 5% and carry an average annual salary of $83,060. The average salary for more specialized disciplines with more overlap with nanotechnology, such as materials engineers, is higher, at $93,260 a year. Because job creation is slower for advanced engineering than, say, computer science, the field will likely become more competitive, which emphasizes the benefit of earning a master’s degree.
Yet no matter what industry you might be considering, there’s a good chance there’s a demand for nanoengineers in it, even if nanotech demands are growing slower in some fields versus others. Career nanoengineers can look forward to generous pay and benefits whether they become biomedical engineering surgical specialists or design new manufacturing processes for nanopowders used in spacecraft. The chance to make a difference in the world of technology with nanoengineering is almost unrivaled by any other field.
And the impact nanotechnology makes on society will only grow with time. According to Scientific American, nanotechnology will soon reach the “molecular nanosystems stage,” where “heterogeneous networks [with] molecules and supramolecular structures serve as distinct devices” in various technological contexts. No more than the size of single cells, these items will slowly but surely be adapted by many different industries, and the need for nanotechnologists will grow ever higher along with it.
Start your career with a degree from UCR
Interested in pursuing a career in nanoengineering? Further your professional aspirations today by earning an online master’s degree in engineering from the University of California, Riverside.
When you choose to earn a master’s degree with a concentration in materials at the nanoscale, you’ll take courses through the university’s interdisciplinary Materials Science and Engineering graduate program. These courses, taught by leaders in the field, cover topics such as the patterning of materials via scanning probe lithography and the mechanical, electrical, magnetic and chemical properties of nanoparticles to prepare you to work in a position that involves nanotechnology. Practical, tangible experience can be gained at UCR’s two nanofabrication facilities on campus.
By pursuing your master’s with a concentration in materials at the nanoscale through UCR’s online master’s program, you will be able to further your education from the time and place of your choosing without many of the sacrifices required to earn a degree at a physical location. Wherever you go, your coursework goes with you. It is a convenient way for the 21st century engineer to pursue a higher education while also working full or part time.