Physics Degrees and Semiconductor Industry (IC Design?)

  • #1
Hello there,

im a physics student from Germany and currently in my second semester of a Bachelor of science.
Lately i have become increasingly intrested in woking in the Semiconductor Industry and im currently reading the book "But how do it Know" by J. Clark Scott and i think it is really intresting.

My question is this: In this forum i have seen some poeple talking about needing an electrical engineering degree to work in Integrated Circuit Design, wich is the field i am most intrested in at the moment.
Is it possible to work in the field with an Bachelor or Master degree in Physics? How important is a PhD later in the Career and do you really need an engineering degree?
How usefull are classes like" electronics and sensors 1", were you learn about semiconductor diodes, bipolar transistors, transistor circuits and circuit simulation?

At this time, everything is still in the far future because i only just started semester 2 of 6 so there is still lots of time.

Sorry for spelling mistakes, there are lots of technical terms that i dont really know the translation of.

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Science Advisor
I think this is a sensible career choice. Electronics is one of the largest industries in the world, and I think with knowledge of IC design you will be very employable. I have a BS in physics and an MS in electrical engineering, and had a successful career in the IC industry. I think classes like your, " electronics and sensors 1" are very important. If you have several of these classes, you might be able to get a job in IC design with just a BS in physics. An engineering degree will definitely help. I think to work in IC design, a PhD degree is less important. No matter what you learn in school, you will have a lot to learn on the job, and the sooner you get a job and start learning real design, the faster you will progress.
  • #3
Thanks for your answer! I believe there are more of these classes or similar ones in the Computaional Physics Master, for an Engineering master i would have to apply to an Technical University ?(TU).

I´ ll keep looking for classes that seem helpful, and im happy that it shouldnt be impossible to score a job without having an Engineering degree!
  • #4
Gold Member
I'm not sure about other countries, but in my areas in the US I see very few opportunities for students with anything less than a graduate degree in IC design. When I look at the roles available in my area almost all of them require the bare minimum a masters although PhD is preferred.

I'm currently in a graduate program concentrating on analog/mixed-signal IC design and it looks like the competition for those opportunities will be vicious; I'm also on a packaging team and I work closely with IC designers.

The class you described sounds like a step in the right direction although it sounds like the very first or introduction to active circuit design. I personally think but do not know (just my own thoughts or perspective) is if you stay on track for physics you're more likely to get into the process or semiconductor physics using tools like TCAD instead of doing transistor level schematic (or layout).

I have this thought because of my current workplace when I ask a bit about each persons background most of the process people have physics or materials science degrees, and the IC designers most of them are electronics engineer with a concentration on IC design. It's a small sample size within an area and so maybe it's not aligned with the general opportunities, but that's what I've seen so far.
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  • #5
Interesting to hear this! I have only seen a few things about the industry online and it is not like i really know
all the different fields that you can work in. Im sure there are tons of different work fields that i dont know about that are equally as interesting. And its not like i HAVE TO work as an IC designer, it is just something i came across, but i think the Industry is interesting and it would be great to score a job somewhere in there. I will just pick the classes that seem interesting and usefull, there is plenty of time before i start working anyway. :)
  • #6
i think the Industry is interesting and it would be great to score a job somewhere in there. I will just pick the classes that seem interesting and usefull, there is plenty of time before i start working anyway. :)
Does your university have an IC fabrication facility on campus? Some schools do, and offer access to the facility as part of the EE courses in IC design.

I did my MSEE grad year at the University of Michgan here in the US, and I was impressed that they had such an IC fab facility available for students to use for lab projects in IC design. This was back around 1980, and it looks like their facilities have expanded quite a bit now, with access to bigger and more modern fab facilities:

  • #7
The University im at only offers Bachelor and Master of science, arts and stuff like this. No Engineering degrees. We have laboratories für experimental physics, but i will stick to my Physics degree, and figure out later how and if i go into the Industy. In the meantime i´ll do some more reesaerch at what kind of work there is.

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