Materials science & engineering

The School of Materials Science and Engineering offers both engineering and science degrees within the Faculty of Science.

Students learning in the Science facilities at the UNSW Kensington campus

Study the underlying science of high-performance materials

Everything we use is made of materials, yet only a handful of these materials occur naturally. All the rest have been microscopically engineered originally by nature, but increasingly by materials engineers/scientists.

Materials science and engineering is focused on the development of new and better materials for the next generation of engineering applications. The degree covers the fundamentals of biomaterials, nanomaterials, ceramics, metals, polymers, electronic materials and composites, emphasising the relationships between atomic structure and microstructure as well as the properties, processing and performance of these materials. 

Materials scientists and engineers are involved in every aspect of technology - from the design of materials for use in integrated circuits, transport vehicles, battery devices and medical implants, through to sustainable materials processing and developing new materials for green energy generation. In this new century, sustainability and environmental impact lie at the core of materials development and application.

At the undergraduate level, you can study our specialised bachelor's degree in materials science and engineering, which can also be combined with commerce, chemical engineering or biomedical engineering. Materials science is also offered as a major in several of our undergraduate science degrees. At the postgraduate level, we offer a range of coursework and research options including our Master of Materials Technology

Develop in-demand interdisciplinary skills 

Materials science and engineering combines chemistry, physics and mathematics with the principles of mechanical, chemical and electrical engineering. As a result, materials engineers are highly marketable. Along with a solid technical foundation, you'll be equipped with communication, project management, time management, organisational and computing skills. 

Prepare for professional practice

UNSW is ranked 39th in the world for materials science.* Our graduates are highly regarded by employers, both in Australia and internationally. Materials science and engineering touches almost every aspect of our lives from the concrete and steel in the structures around us, the components in our electronic devices and even biomedical implants used to better our health. The field is diverse, offering a wide range of career opportunities. As a materials scientist or engineer, you may be involved in: 

  • the development of environmentally sustainable materials and processes
  • engineering of new materials for application in super-computers or nano-devices
  • development of biomedical materials for drug delivery or prostheses
  • processing of extremely high purity materials eliminating impurities on a scale of part per billion
  • analysis of catastrophic failure of materials as a consultant or expert witness
  • engineering of thin-films only nanometers thick to create seemingly frictionless surfaces
  • fabrication of smart composite materials that detect their own failure
  • development of materials for use in deep space and the demanding entry and exit of the Earth’s atmosphere

These areas of interest are only the tip of the iceberg as the field of materials science and engineering is continually evolving for societal and environmental benefit. 

Our undergraduate degree options

At the undergraduate level, you can study our specialised Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) (Materials Science & Engineering) degree, or you can study materials science as a major within a broader science degree. If you're interested in studying materials science and engineering, but you aren't sure whether the degree or major is your best option, we've highlighted the key differences between the two below.

Degree (Bachelor of Engineering) Major (Bachelor of Science)
Four-year degree (if taken as a single degree) Usually completed as part of a three-year program^
Professionally accredited engineering degree Smaller in terms of core courses
Structured degree Coursework is flexible
Compulsory work experience component Optional Work Integrated Learning (WIL)


Integrated honours

  - Honours is a core part of the program that is done concurrently with coursework study



Optional honours

  - Honours is taken full-time over the course of one year



Ideal for students who want to work in industry as an engineer or pursue a research career - this degree is fully accredited by Engineers Australia



Ideal for students who want to work in industry as a scientist or technologist or, following the completion of an honours year, pursue a research career


Our programs 

*QS World University Rankings by Subject 2021

^The Bachelor of Advanced Science (Honours) and Bachelor of Science (International) are both four-year degrees.