There appears to be a paucity of formal undergraduate engineering courses in the corrosion engineering field, while postgraduate studies are just starting to develop in some universities. Professional bodies in the corrosion field such as the National Association for Corrosion Engineers International (NACE) have tried to bridge the gap between the demand for and the availability of skilled and knowledgeable engineers.
Industry and Educational Efforts to Date
In 2016, a study (IMPACT) conducted by the National Association of Corrosion Engineers International (NACE) stated that the direct expenditures incurred due to deterioration caused by corrosion corresponds to approximately 3.4% of the global GDP.
The risk of corrosive degradation to products and structures that are critical to the economy is well documented. However, efforts to create undergraduate corrosion engineering courses that would improve the understanding of corrosion mitigation processes appear to be inadequate.
Professional bodies, associations and institutes have tried to rise to the occasion by offering training courses with certifications that are badly needed by the industry. They play a major role in training technical personnel for the level of corrosion control that is needed in the oil & gas and other industries.
Ideally, the engineers engaged in corrosion mitigation should have an adequate understanding of the electrochemical principles of corrosion as well as the technical issues involved in corrosion and its mitigation. (For a quick introduction to these concepts, read Corrosion Electrochemistry: The 6 Electrochemical Reactions Involved in Corrosion.)
Unfortunately, corrosion science and engineering topics are inadequately covered in materials science, chemical engineering and metallurgy undergraduate courses. Many bachelor's degree courses in engineering barely touch on this subject. Very few engineering schools offer a standalone undergraduate degree in corrosion science or corrosion engineering.
Classifications of Corrosion Engineers
Corrosion personnel can be broadly classified as:
- Technicians (coating, repairing, cathodic protection, maintenance)
- Inspectors (coating, corrosion measurement, cathodic protection)
- Material specifiers and designers needing a corrosion background
- Corrosion scientists, engineers, teachers and researchers (who need complete expertise in corrosion science and engineering)
The educational needs of the first two categories (technicians and inspectors) are broadly catered to by professional bodies such as NACE, and educational institutions are playing a secondary role.
To educate the material specifiers, corrosion scientists, teachers, engineers and researchers, the educational institutions and universities need to play a bigger role.
Engineering Schools and Universities Offering Corrosion Education
Most engineering schools and universities offer corrosion science and corrosion engineering embedded within the undergraduate and postgraduate courses of materials science, chemical engineering and metallurgy. (Be sure to read How to Get Started in a Career as a Materials Scientist to learn more about careers in materials science.) A small number of universities offer standalone courses in corrosion engineering and corrosion science. A small sampling of some typical courses is discussed below.
Curtin University, Australia
Curtin University offers:
- An online graduate diploma in corrosion engineering
- A graduate certificate course
- A Master of Science in corrosion engineering
Open Universities, Australia
Open Universities offers the following online courses:
- A graduate certificate in corrosion engineering
- A graduate diploma in corrosion engineering
- A Master of Science in corrosion engineering
The University of Akron, United States
A Bachelor's degree corrosion engineering program at the University of Akron is offered by the chemical and bio-molecular engineering department, and provides research opportunities as well.
Manchester University, UK
Manchester University offers a Master of Science in corrosion control engineering (12 months duration) and a Master of Engineering (Honors) material science & engineering with corrosion (4 years duration).
Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IITB), India
Indian Institute of Technology Bombay offers M Tech in corrosion science. NIT (National Institute of Technology) Durgapur, India offers M Tech in corrosion science & technology.
Many universities such as the University of Leeds and Cranfield University in the United Kingdom offer short-term courses in corrosion science and engineering.
US schools offering coating inspector training and certification
Examples of coating inspector schools that offer a two-year associate certificate include:
- Barton County Community College, Kansas
- Kilgore College, Texas
- Lone Star College, Texas
- Houston Community College, Texas
- Essex County college, New Jersey
Examples of coating inspector schools that offer a four-year certificate/associate courses include:
- University of Akron, Ohio
- Florida State College, Jacksonville, Florida
Professional and trade association short-term courses
Professional associations and organizations devoted to the practice of corrosion engineering offer a variety of short-term training courses in corrosion-related topics. Courses and certifications offered by some of these are briefly reviewed below:
NACE was founded by 11 corrosion engineers from the pipeline sector as the National Association of Corrosion Engineers in 1942. It provides training and certification for corrosion professionals.
NACE International Institute
The NACE International Institute was founded in 2012 to create a global organization that is totally dedicated to certification activities for corrosion professionals. Through its activities related to certifying high quality corrosion professionals, the institute endeavors to improve business results for the industry by minimizing the impact of corrosion as well as promoting environment protection and safety.
NACE organizes courses on topics such as:
- Industrial coating application
- Coating Inspector level 1 and level 2
- Cathodic protection
- Pipeline industry
- Corrosion management
- Refining industry
Online education by NACE International
NACE International continues to expand its educational portfolio with online educational courses in order to meet the demand for flexible schedules and training with certification options. The topics range from a basic e-course on corrosion to specialist courses such as "Power Industry Corrosion."
These courses enable younger professionals to update their knowledge and continue their professional development with a self-study format. The coating inspection course was first offered in online format in 2011. A number of other courses are now available in online format. A cathodic protection virtual simulator course is one such high-tech course, which enables the learner to develop practical experience and expertise in a virtual environment.
These e-courses help learners to earn professional development hours (PDHs) and consequently ensure eligibility for NACE International Institute certification exams. (For more ideas about continuing your professional development, see Top 4 Tips for Entry-level Corrosion Engineers.)
Institute of Corrosion (Icorr), UK
The Institute of Corrosion (Icorr) conducts training and certification of corrosion professionals. It has some regional branches that also conduct technical programs. Professional development activities are organized by the institute to help trainees develop a career as a corrosion engineer and corrosion scientist.
Training courses conducted by the institute include residential courses as well as online courses.
For residential courses the partner is IMechE (Institution of Mechanical Engineers) and online courses are partnered with Corrodere.
Typical programs include:
- Painting inspector level 1, 2, 3
- Hot-dip galvanizing inspector
- Insulation inspector level 1, 2
- Pipeline coating inspector
- Cathodic protection data collector/tester/technician on land metallic structures level 1, 2
- Cathodic protection technician marine metallic structures level 2
- Senior cathodic protection technician on land metallic structures level 3
- Senior cathodic protection technician reinforced concrete structures level 3
- Senior cathodic protection engineer level 4
Webcorr Corrosion Consulting Services also specialize in short term courses and use NACE-certified trainers. The courses cover the needs of oil & gas and other industries throughout the world.
The Electrochemical Society (ECS)
The Electrochemical Society endeavors to advance the study of scientific principles and practices in the field of electrochemical technology. It fosters education and training of engineers and scientists.
The corrosion division of the society is devoted to the study of corrosion science and engineering. ECS has student chapters in various universities situated in the US, Canada, UK and 18 other countries. It provides digital libraries and other resources for students. Job boards featured on the ECS website helps readers connect to jobs in this field.
Career Opportunities for Corrosion Professionals
Corrosion engineers earn on average $103,000 USD per year. They are employed in sectors such as defense, aerospace, utilities, natural gas, chemical plants, refineries, and oil & gas extraction.
Job prospects in the oil and gas sector
The oil & gas extraction and gas utility sectors are the top employers of corrosion professionals. Corrosion engineers, technologists, technicians, coating technicians, inspectors, and cathodic protection technicians are some of the roles required. Protecting pipelines, oil and gas extraction facilities, and critical refinery assets is an important responsibility for corrosion professionals.
Job prospects in the chemical and other process industries
Chemical processes can cause corrosion of equipment and facilities. For example, the processes involved in producing cement, fertilizers and chemicals can cause corrosion of metallic surfaces. Corrosion professionals are responsible for corrosion prevention and remediation to minimize corrosion damage. Professionals are employed as corrosion inspectors, technicians, corrosion engineers and cathodic protection specialists.
Job prospects with coating, lining and paint producers
Coating, lining and paint producers hire research scientists, corrosion engineers and technicians with a corrosion background. They are tasks with developing new formulations with higher performance levels, innovating products and troubleshooting problems related to product applications in the field.
Job prospects in the mining and metal producing sectors
The mining and metal producing sectors face pollution concerns as well as a moderate to severely corrosive operating conditions. Corrosion professionals are responsible for providing advice on material selection, equipment design and corrosion prevention of the metallic surfaces of assets. Roles offered for corrosion professionals include corrosion engineer, corrosion inspector, coating inspector, coating technician and cathodic protection technician.
Other career opportunities for corrosion professionals
- The defense sector recruits coating professionals in designations such as coating/painting inspectors, materials engineers and sand blasters
- Engineering consultants, architects and contractors hire material selection engineers, surface treatment engineers with a corrosion background, corrosion lab technicians and corrosion specialists
- Aerospace companies recruit corrosion control engineers
- Research institutions recruit corrosion engineers and scientists
- Corrosion test equipment manufacturers employ corrosion engineers, coating technicians and others; corrosion subject matter experts are hired to support sales of coatings and allied products
- Original equipment manufacturers (including biomedical equipment manufacturers) employ corrosion research scientists and risk based inspection consultants with a corrosion background
- Structural testing companies and tire companies hire corrosion consultants and subsea installation companies recruit corrosion expert
- Space technology services recruit surface technologists with a corrosion background
Expected Salaries and Challenges for Career Corrosion Professionals
Corrosion professionals generally have fair career growth opportunities with rising average compensation as their experience in the corrosion field increases, as indicated by the NACE salary survey for 2015. Salary pay packages vary according to the amount of higher education and certification received.
In the United States, technicians/technologists, QC/QA inspectors, and engineers made up 22%, 18%, and 21% of total corrosion workforce, respectively. The highest average annual salaries are earned by professors and teachers, managers and corrosion consultants.
According to a survey of Canada, US, Europe and UK corrosion professionals, the oil & gas and coating producer sectors continue to be dominant employers.
In the US, the highest annual average salaries are paid by the pulp & paper, oil & gas extractors and oil refinery companies.
In Canada, original equipment manufacturers, mining, and metals and oil & gas extractors pay the highest salaries.
For Europe, chemical processors, oil & gas extraction and original equipment manufacturers paid the top salaries.
In the UK, oil & gas, original equipment manufacturers, and architecture/engineering consulting firms paid top salaries to corrosion professionals.
The challenges faced by corrosion professionals include:
- The need to develop advancement opportunities
- Improving the accessibility of modern corrosion prevention and control technologies
- The need for better relationships with higher management
- The need to resolve job security issues
- A lack of balanced workloads
- The need to improve corrosion education opportunities for colleagues and customers
- Better cooperation and understanding with non-corrosion work teams and other stakeholders such as engineers and regulators (Related reading: Working towards Consensus in the Coatings and Corrosion Fields.)
Global training and educational opportunities are generally aligned to the job opportunities available in different sectors. Certain gaps have been observed in undergraduate corrosion education. The challenges faced by corrosion professionals present opportunities for continuous improvement.
Despite these challenges, corrosion professionals will find steadily growing demand in critical sectors of the economy such as oil & gas extraction, utilities, metals & mining, consulting, architecture and construction engineering, and with original equipment manufacturers.