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The Semiconductor Industry

  1. Dec 27, 2011 #1
    I'm extremely interested in semiconductor devices (MOSFETs, BJTs, diodes, etc) and I plan on pursuing a career in this field. However, what I am contemplating is whether or not it would be beneficial to pursue a masters before attempting to get into the semiconductor industry, or if a BE is suffice? I obviously want to excel in whatever line of work I am a part of.

    I'm currently in my second year, and I most definitely have the marks to get into a graduate program (if it would be beneficial). Any advice from those a part of the EE community is greatly appreciated.

  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 27, 2011 #2
    You sound quite certain you have found your field of interest
    And going back to school after wroking for several years is not easy.
    So I would say get your Masters first and then begin the career.
    I did that. And I decided the PhD was not needed unless I wanted to teach and do research. It worked for me. I was always glad I had that MS under my belt.
  4. Dec 28, 2011 #3
    I think in that line of work, a masters would definitely help. You may want to consider a condensed matter physics / material science masters program to get a really good understanding of that industry outside of the abstracted EE layer, but then focus your undergrad EE electives in mixed signal/digital design/FPGA and VLSI courses.

    In my grad physics course we studied all of the semiconductor physics and then also all of the technology and processes used such as all of the deposition/implantation techniques, lithography, and the czochralski process.

    But it also depends on the specific school you're going to. Some EE programs offer courses that are very indepth into semiconductor physics, while others rely on a physics department to teach that stuff.
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2011
  5. Dec 28, 2011 #4
    and simply the quantum mechanics
  6. Dec 28, 2011 #5
    I'd say your choice depends on your specialty. For anything resembling a "career" It's becoming hard to break in as a BSEE. The business has changed greatly since the days of fabricating discrete solutions.

    If you want to be in semiconductor, you could be in the process side, the design side, or any number of supporting roles.

    Process engineers will be expected to know a great deal about the devices, the chemistry, the physics, and any number of special processes. I have a friend that's a BSIE in this area, but the PHds rule.

    Design engineers are broken into subcategories, but generally, you're a digital designer or an analog designer. Either way, you really need the MSEE to break in. Your knowledge burden will be more centered towards understanding techniques and the utilization of certain software packages.

    Support engineers do grunt work to characterize devices (test engineers or reliability engineers), marketing, or customer support related duties. With the exception of marketing, you probably won't see the portability or income of a design engineer. And, in any of these cases, you'll still have difficulties without the MSEE.

    SO, the bottom line is get the MSEE if you want into this industry. It is good to get inroads into the industry early, so a summer internship is good. One company that does a lot of training is Texas Instruments. I don't know anyone who's come away from the company feeling ambivalent; you either love it or hate it, but you get a solid start on the basics.

    Best of Luck,

  7. Dec 29, 2011 #6
    Thanks a lot for the replies. If I were to post particular graduate classes that focus on semiconductors, along with their descriptions, would any of you be able to discern whether the program is suffice? I feel as though I am not experienced enough to place judgement, but I'd like to have an idea of whether I will have to go to the physics department for a graduate program or not. I have emailed a professor at my school that specializes in semiconductors and asked his opinion regarding it, but an outside opinion may be better...
  8. Dec 30, 2011 #7
    Again, this gets back to specialties. I know it's murky to perceive trends, but this is what you need to do. For example, simple, circuit board level, design work is migrating out of the country to India and China. This trend will likely increase as these countries migrate from production to design.
    VLSI digital design has been entrenched for many years, and is beginning to filter down closer to the product level, particularly in high value industries like Military and high performance medical.
    Analog design has really taken off, particularly using cmos processes. More demanding, but very popular know is mixing signals on a chip. At one time analog beside digital was the challenge, but the new frontier is RF beside digital.
    Though I don't understand how, power supply chip designers are still in demand. I'm surprised this growth has lasted so long.

    Alternately, reliability and control systems engineering are still going strong and I can't imagine them fading away.
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