Metallurgical Engineer

Metallurgy is the art of extracting metals from ore and forms an essential part of the mining effort. Metallurgical engineers play an important role in the development of metalliferous minerals used daily in many products such as alarms, kettles, cars, etc.

The metallurgical engineer works with metals and alloys in the development, production and manufacturing of metal items and structures that range from tiny precision-made components to huge heavy engineering parts.  They work with a wide range of products including copper sheet, precious metals, iron, steel, zinc, copper and aluminium alloys and are trained in the processes and methods for the reclamation and processing of ore and mineral resources. After the process of purification, the metallurgical engineer combines science, mathematical and engineering principles to extract various kinds of metal from the ore. The optimally correct metal for each application must be created.

Apart from producing metal products the metallurgical engineer must also be able to determine the cause of defects in metals and prescribe possible solutions.

Metallurgical engineering can be divided into two complementary fields:

Extraction metallurgy or minerals processing: This is the science and technology of refining and processing minerals to useful metals by way of production and manufacturing processes. First, the preparation of reclaimed ore for the extraction process is handled and secondly the reclamation of metal from the prepared ore is taken care of. After the ore has been prepared, it undergoes a further extraction process through which metal is obtained from the concentrate - see Extraction Metallurgist for further details.

Material engineering or physical metallurgy: This field is concerned with original raw materials that are alloyed, formed into useful components and treated with heat to achieve the required characteristics. This includes combining different metals to form alloys which give products with specific qualities, such as sheets, wire and bars. The metallurgical engineer must also determine the cause of defects in metals and suggest repair measures - see Materials Scientist / Engineer for further details.

Metallurgical Engineering Technicians and Technologists - see Engineering Technicians and Technologists.

Important skills are innovation, commercial awareness, organisation, interpersonal skills, problem- solving skills, communication skills, team working skills, good IT skills and analytical skills.

Personal Requirements

  • mathematical and scientific ability
  • thorough knowledge of scientific methods
  • able to think logically and analytically
  • good judgement and common sense
  • creative, innovative and have a receptive attitude towards change
  • good interpersonal relations and leadership ability
  • computer literate
  • self-driven, motivated and some interest in finance

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics, Physical Science 
Recommended subjects: Engineering and Graphic Design 

What to Study

Degree: Metallurgical Engineering is offered at UP, UJ, Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering - Wits, Chemical and Minerals Engineering - NWU.

VUT also presents the National Diploma, BTech, MTech and DTech qualifications in Metallurgical Engineering,

Those with these degrees are eligible for registration as Engineers in Training. After gaining at least 3 years of appropriate practical experience, metallurgical engineers may register as Professional Engineers under the auspices of the Engineering Council of South Africa.


  • such organisations as: Mittal Steel, MINTEK, CSIR, SABS, NECSA
  • individual mining groups
  • metal manufacturing industries
  • iron and steel industry
  • universities of technology and universities
  • self-employment, with the necessary experience, can be an independent consultant

Further Information

Any of the above potential employers.

The Manpower and Training Officer
SA Chamber of Mining
P O Box 61809
Johannesburg, 2000
Tel: (011) 498-7100

The Manager: Manpower Suppliance
P O Box 61820
Marshalltown, 2107
Tel: (011) 792-7090

Getting Started

  • learn about the various metals one can find and try to obtain vacation work in a mining company
  • make an appointment to speak to a metallurgical engineer about this type of career

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

Study Metallurgical Engineering at Wits

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