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Confused about which field of Electrical Engineering to Go into

  1. Oct 26, 2014 #1
    I am a applied physics major with an emphasis in physical electronics (so basically I take a lot of solid state physics classes with my other normal physics classes), and I go accepted into a program where I start taking graduate classes during my last year of my bachelors (current year) and then I only need to spend one more year in grad school to get a Masters (instead of the typical two).

    So far I have taken the following electrical engineering classes:
    -Intro to analog circuits (passive and active components, basics of BJT and FET transistors).
    -Intro to digital circuits (basic gate circuits).
    -Intro to signals and systems (Fourier transforms and its properties, root locus, basics of filters)
    -And two semiconductor physics classes (basics of carrier statistics, devices, MOSFET, MESFET, BJT basics)

    I am currently enrolled In a graduate semiconductor physics class and currently it is mostly review of my two upper division undergrad classes.

    I am also enrolled in an IC Fabrication Lab where I go into a clean room and learn how to make devices on a wafer.

    All of this leads me to think I should do a semiconductor focus and possibly a semiconductors job, but I don't know if that's even what I want to do, I don't even know exactly what I would be doing or who even hires semiconductor people besides the obvious Intel and Samsung, and i even hear the those jobs are really on the decline in most of the US (and if possible i would really love to stay in the Bay Area, California).I don't feel like i have enough experience in all fields of EE to really decide.

    I think my problem is that I am interested in too many things. I am also a computer science minor and can easily see myself going into a computer science related job (although I don't like computer science jobs -programming- as much as I like EE).

    I see a lot of jobs for asic designer, but is that something that someone in semiconductors would do? Or is that a different subfield?

    I guess I am just wondering what are the current or near future hot positions in EE (in bay area) and what would I do in each subfield. And what would I focus on in school to get that job? I am trying to find out what jobs actually have me doing if i focused on each subfield.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 31, 2014 #2
    Thanks for the post! Sorry you aren't generating responses at the moment. Do you have any further information, come to any new conclusions or is it possible to reword the post?
  4. Nov 2, 2014 #3


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    I'm an analog IC designer in the Bay Area. There are some jobs available for people who do device research for fabs (is that what you mean by semiconductors?) but frankly that type of work has been in steep decline in the US for quite some time. That said, there are a lot more wafer fabs in the Bay Area than most people realize and they still need good people. Besides the usual suspect (Intel, which has most of its stuff in Oregon, BTW), there are fabs by Maxim, Linear Tech, and others. Also, there is a lot of interest in solar cell manufacturing that uses similar skills. There are also a lot of startups doing interesting things that might be of interest to someone in physical electronics (for example new materials for new sensors and the like).

    ASIC design or Analog IC design is in more demand at the moment in the Bay Area. All of my designs have been fabricated in Asia (that where most of the accessible capacity is). You need to know quite a bit about device physics and processing to be a competent analog IC designer. Much less specific knowledge is needed for digital ASIC design. Typically companies want people to hit the ground running so you need to emphasize analog or digital design in your MS program if that is what you want to do for your job.
  5. Nov 4, 2014 #4
    Solar panels and various sensors are electron devices made with semiconductors too AFAIK so there's not only the usual electron device research jobs at microelectronics manufacturing companies. Comparing, the US isn't that bad when it comes to this stuff, but I don't live there so I don't know if it's in decline.
    In general, if you're very specialized, you may have to move to where your job is. But you seem to be already in the right place for high tech jobs compared to most locations on this earth.

    It is a different subfield. Deep knowledge about device physics surely helps though. You need to have a good % of analog electronics classes in your study program if you want to do that. I don't even know if you can, there's a reason the degree is called appplied physics with physical electronics concentration and not electronics engineering with concentration on electron devices. This is very university-dependant though. Go look a how a typical degree in electronics with analog IC concentration looks, and try to take all the core/compulsory analog electronics courses from there and put them into your program or something.

    You're closer to analog electronics than digital anyway, I had several professors who studied physics and then their PhD took them towards electronics and ended up teaching electronics.
  6. Nov 5, 2014 #5
    Since you like physics you could try taking some semiconductor optics courses as well. They are interesting and should expand your employment opportunities. I don't know about the bay area specifically, but there are plenty of jobs within the defense industry in California which advertise for both physics, and EE degrees. It won't necessarily be fabrication but you might get to work with lasers :D

    Embedded computing might give you a little more flexibility though
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