What is the best major for working with semiconductors?

In summary, the conversation discusses different major options for working with semiconductor assemblies, specifically in production or in R&D. The best major for this field may depend on the individual's institution and interests, with electrical engineering and computer engineering being popular choices. However, some suggest that a major in solid state physics may also be beneficial due to its focus on semiconductors. Ultimately, the perception of these majors by interviewers may vary depending on the job and the individual's skills and experience.
  • #1
Ivan Vanko
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It'll soon be time for me to choose my major. I was looking for either an Electrical Engineering or a Computer Engineering major, with a minor in maths. What would be the best to work with semiconductor assemblies, in production or in R&D? And what exactly is the difference between EE and CE? And how do the interviewers perceive both of these majors? From what I see on the careers pages of companies such as Intel and Nvidia, there are little if no mentions of CE, only of EE.

Thanks
 
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  • #2
Ivan Vanko said:
What would be the best to work with semiconductor assemblies, in production or in R&D?
Probably EE.

Ivan Vanko said:
And what exactly is the difference between EE and CE?
That's a question whose answer depends on your institution. You really will get a better answer from your university than us,
Ivan Vanko said:
And how do the interviewers perceive both of these majors?
That's even more remote than the previous question. It depends on the job, on the interviwer, on the nature of the position, on what else you bring to the table...
 
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  • #3
Just my personal experience... computer and electrical engineers are very similar at the universities I've attended so far, but electrical engineers focused more on hardware (more in depth on circuit analysis and physical sciences) where computer engineers coursework included more software and programming so they might learn about computer architecture and OS, and coursework like data structures.

I studied electrical engineering.
 
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  • #4
Welcome to PF.

Ivan Vanko said:
What would be the best to work with semiconductor assemblies, in production or in R&D?

Can you say more about what you mean by "semiconductor assemblies"? Do you mean actual assemblies like cell phones, WiFi routers and similar? Or do you mean more semiconductor-oriented like IC design?
 
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  • #5
Joshy said:
but electrical engineers focused more on hardware (more in depth on circuit analysis and physical sciences) where computer engineers coursework included more software and programming so they might learn about computer architecture and OS, and coursework like data structures.
Those are my thoughts as well.
 
  • #6
Ivan Vanko said:
What would be the best to work with semiconductor assemblies, in production or in R&D?
berkeman said:
Can you say more about what you mean by "semiconductor assemblies"? Do you mean actual assemblies like cell phones, WiFi routers and similar? Or do you mean more semiconductor-oriented like IC design?
OP: In addition to berkeman's question, you should also clarify what areas of production and R&D you are interested in. E.g., are you mainly interested in circuit design, or are you interested in fabrication (e.g., on the wafer level or on the circuit board level)? As you can see by now, "semiconductors" encompasses a broad scope.
 
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  • #7
Also, depending on the school and the desired job, "Materials science" might be a better answer still.
 
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  • #8
berkeman said:
Welcome to PF.
Can you say more about what you mean by "semiconductor assemblies"? Do you mean actual assemblies like cell phones, WiFi routers and similar? Or do you mean more semiconductor-oriented like IC design?

More like IC design
 
  • #9
CrysPhys said:
OP: In addition to berkeman's question, you should also clarify what areas of production and R&D you are interested in. E.g., are you mainly interested in circuit design, or are you interested in fabrication (e.g., on the wafer level or on the circuit board level)? As you can see by now, "semiconductors" encompasses a broad scope.
I’m way more interested in IC design. Something like Apple silicon, or nvidia’s gpus.
 
  • #10
Vanadium 50 said:
Also, depending on the school and the desired job, "Materials science" might be a better answer still.
Sadly my desired uni (McGill) doesn’t have it :confused:
 
  • #11
Joshy said:
Just my personal experience... computer and electrical engineers are very similar at the universities I've attended so far, but electrical engineers focused more on hardware (more in depth on circuit analysis and physical sciences) where computer engineers coursework included more software and programming so they might learn about computer architecture and OS, and coursework like data structures.

I studied electrical engineering.
Thanks! That’s very interesting, the hardware bit is the one I’m looking for. I think McGill’s EE program looks good for the type of stuff I want.
 
  • #12
Ivan Vanko said:
Sadly my desired uni (McGill) doesn’t have it :confused:
How about a major in Solid State Physics, with EE classes as your electives?
 
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  • #13
berkeman said:
How about a major in Solid State Physics, with EE classes as your electives?

How exactly does solid state physics pertain to IC design? Also, McGill doesn’t have this major, only
PHYS 558 Solid State Physics as a course.
 
  • #14
Ivan Vanko said:
How exactly does solid state physics pertain to IC design?
Because Solid State Physics describes how semiconductors work. If you are doing fundamental work in IC design, you will be using a lot of Solid State Physics.

If you are designing digital circuits at the gate level and using Verilog to design the circuits, then you may not need much advanced semiconductor Physics knowledge. But if you are designing analog circuits at the transistor level, or developing new processes and Intellectual Property (libraries) and using SPICE a lot for simulations and developing models, you will be using a lot of semiconductor Physics.

What level of IC design interests you the most? Have you used Verilog yet to design simple state machines? Have you learned any analog electronics at the transistor level yet?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solid-state_physics

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verilog
 
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  • #15
Ivan Vanko said:
How exactly does solid state physics pertain to IC design? Also, McGill doesn’t have this major, only
PHYS 558 Solid State Physics as a course.
Most likely because that's something you would specialize in at the graduate level, not as an undergraduate.
 
  • #16
Ivan Vanko said:
Sadly my desired uni (McGill) doesn’t have it :confused:
In the US, most (not all) major materials programs are offered these days in a consolidated "Materials Science and Engineering" department. McGill does offer an undergrad degree in Materials Engineering in their Dept of Mining and Materials Engineering. But, since you've indicated that you're primarily interested in IC design, and not fabrication, this would not be a suitable program for you. [ETA: Even if you were interested in fabrication, you would need to check details of the particular university program. Some US universities, e.g., have well-equipped fabrication facilities on-campus. I don't know whether McGill does.]
 
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  • #17
Ivan Vanko said:
Sadly my desired uni (McGill) doesn’t have it :confused:
To the OP:

McGill has a program called Materials Engineering, which is the same as Materials Science. See the link below.

https://www.mcgill.ca/materials/
 
  • #18
Ivan Vanko said:
How exactly does solid state physics pertain to IC design? Also, McGill doesn’t have this major, only
PHYS 558 Solid State Physics as a course.
Solid state physics (roughly dealing with the physics of the macroscopic world) provides the theoretical underpinnings on which the development of semiconductors (including IC) is built.

As for the physics courses you mentioned, McGill offers a minor in physics for all engineering programs. See link below:

https://www.mcgill.ca/study/2021-20...ing-beng-minor-physics#beng-elec_phc_minor_en
 
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  • #19
Ivan Vanko said:
Sadly my desired uni (McGill) doesn’t have it :confused:
Are you sure?!

https://www.mcgill.ca/materials/research/electronicmaterials
https://www.mcgill.ca/materials/personnes/faculty-staff/kirk-h-bevan research group explores nanoscale electronic materials and devices. This is accomplished through the application and development of technology computer aided design (TCAD) methods. The ultimate goal of this research is to drive the design and discovery of new technologies through electronic design automation (EDA). Topics of research in the electronic materials theme include: nanoscale interconnects, solid-state memory devices, and transistors.

Some universities have materials science, some materials engineering and some materials science and engineering, and some may have materials buried in mechanical engineering or electrical engineering. Engineering physics is another discipline that might cover similar topics in materials, and could be offered in conjunction with electrical engineering.

One should consider electrical engineering and materials engineering (electronic materials).
 
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  • #20
Astronuc said:
Are you sure?!

https://www.mcgill.ca/materials/research/electronicmaterialsSome universities have materials science, some materials engineering and some materials science and engineering, and some may have materials buried in mechanical engineering or electrical engineering. Engineering physics is another discipline that might cover similar topics in materials, and could be offered in conjunction with electrical engineering.

One should consider electrical engineering and materials engineering (electronic materials).
I'll repeat part of what I said in Reply #16: The OP has indicated that he is interested in IC design, not IC fabrication. So a major in materials (whatever the program is called) would not be suitable. [Some exposure to materials as electives would be helpful, however.]

Given the wide variation in materials programs, even students who are interested in IC fabrication need to closely scrutinize whether a program at a particular university would be suitable. Attached is the undergrad curriculum for materials engineering at McGill. Note that required courses include:

MIME 250
Introduction to Extractive Metallurgy

MIME 341
Introduction to Mineral Processing

MIME 350
Extractive Metallurgical Engineering

MIME 456
Steelmaking and Steel ProcessingA good dose of courses from the old days of mining and metallurgy. Not of much relevance for semiconductor device and IC fabrication.

In contrast, here's the undergrad curriculum for materials science and engineering at MIT:

http://catalog.mit.edu/degree-charts/materials-science-engineering-course-3/

No old-time requirements, and a flexible selection of electives.
 

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  • #22
berkeman said:
I wish the OP would return and answer my questions... I have such great follow-up suggestions ready to post! :wink:
Yeah, that would be more efficient. That's why I didn't bring up materials science and engineering right away. I first wanted to know whether he was interested in IC fabrication. Once he said no, this extended discussion of materials programs was moot. But once it was brought up, it was necessary to clarify it for the benefit of others.
 
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Related to What is the best major for working with semiconductors?

1. What is a semiconductor?

A semiconductor is a material that has properties between those of a conductor and an insulator. This means it can both conduct and resist electricity, making it useful in electronic devices.

2. What majors are relevant for working with semiconductors?

Some of the most relevant majors for working with semiconductors include electrical engineering, materials science, and physics. These fields provide a strong foundation in the principles and technologies related to semiconductors.

3. What skills are important for working with semiconductors?

Strong analytical and problem-solving skills are essential for working with semiconductors. Attention to detail, critical thinking, and the ability to work with complex systems are also important. Additionally, knowledge of computer programming and software tools used in semiconductor design and manufacturing is beneficial.

4. Are there any specific courses or concentrations within a major that would be useful for working with semiconductors?

Yes, certain courses or concentrations within a major can be helpful for working with semiconductors. For example, courses in solid state physics, semiconductor devices, and microfabrication can provide a more specialized understanding of semiconductor materials and technology.

5. What career opportunities are available for those with a major in semiconductors?

Graduates with a major in semiconductors can pursue careers in various industries, including electronics, telecommunications, and renewable energy. They may work as engineers, researchers, or technicians in roles such as semiconductor design, manufacturing, quality control, or testing.

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