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Programs Which degree is better for the semiconductor industry?

  • Thread starter Connor
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I've been doing some research lately and was wondering what degree is good for the semiconductor industry? Chemical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, or Material Science?
 

Scrumhalf

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Narrow it down a bit.

Are you interested in chip design or circuit design or device performance/testing? If so, electrical engineering.

If you are interested in actually making chips, then chemical engineering, or materials science or even physics would be good. I work in semiconductor R&D and we hire people with all those degrees.
 

Vanadium 50

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Narrow it down a bit.
This.

I could answer "accounting", because the semiconductor industry hires a lot of accountants. But that's almost certainly not what you want. So you need to give more details.
 
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I was thinking more of making the chips, but I rather go the electrical engineering route since I also want to get a degree in computer science.
 

ZapperZ

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I was thinking more of making the chips,
Unfortunately, this is also rather vague. What does it mean when you say "making the chips"? Are you talking about the actual fabrication of the material? Or are you talking about the process of transforming the material into a processor?

It is understandable that these "details" may not be apparent to you at this stage of your education. This is why talking to an academic advisor is very important. In fact, you may want to talk to more than just one person. Find someone in various department and make an appointment to talk with them.

but I rather go the electrical engineering route since I also want to get a degree in computer science.
Er... if you want to get a degree in computer science, why are you going the "electrical engineering route"?

Zz.
 
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Unfortunately, this is also rather vague. What does it mean when you say "making the chips"? Are you talking about the actual fabrication of the material? Or are you talking about the process of transforming the material into a processor?

It is understandable that these "details" may not be apparent to you at this stage of your education. This is why talking to an academic advisor is very important. In fact, you may want to talk to more than just one person. Find someone in various department and make an appointment to talk with them.



Er... if you want to get a degree in computer science, why are you going the "electrical engineering route"?

Zz.
When I mean "making the chips" I meant the actual process of transforming the material. Also the reason why I said going the electrical engineering route because isn't cs+electrical engineering more reasonable than cs+chemical engineering?
 

Vanadium 50

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Zz is right. "Making the chips" is kind of like saying you want to "make cars" at Ford. You will need to be less vague.

In the last half year or so, you've gone from MechE to EE to CS and from automotive to aerospace to semiconductors to quant. On top of that, you're thinking about transferring schools. It seems to me that it would be most helpful to focus on figuring out what your goals are first, and then try and figure out the best path to them.
 
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Zz is right. "Making the chips" is kind of like saying you want to "make cars" at Ford. You will need to be less vague.

In the last half year or so, you've gone from MechE to EE to CS and from automotive to aerospace to semiconductors to quant. On top of that, you're thinking about transferring schools. It seems to me that it would be most helpful to focus on figuring out what your goals are first, and then try and figure out the best path to them.
to be honest I've decided not to do MechE and rather focus on CS and EE. Quant i'll worry about later. I just wanted to know what was the best route for a job as a process engineer in the semiconductor industry.
 

Scrumhalf

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I have spent the last 28 years of my life working in a cleanroom, doing R&D on computer chip manufacturing. I started as a new engineer after grad school and worked my way up the technical ladder and now lead an engineering department with 200+ engineers. So, I know exactly what you need if you want to work in chipmaking.

If you consider a company like, say, Intel, and you want to work on the computer chip side (as opposed to building the fabs or running the electrical and chemical delivery systems and so on), you have about 5 typical categories of technical focus areas.

The first is software. It can range from optimizing operating systems and firmware to run on your hardware, write applications, etc., etc. Get a CS degree with focus on software for this.

Second is computer architecture. Again, a CS or computer engineering degree will be the best for thjs.

Third is circuit design. Get a EE degree with a lot of focus on computer aided design, SPICE simulations, extraction, etc.

All of the above are out of fab jobs.

Now, we get into jobs that are more fab centric.

If you want to focus on the electrical characteristics of semiconductor devices, get a EE degree focusing on that. You can work on transistor design, testing, quality and reliability, etc. This can be in-fab or our of fab in a lab setting.

If you want to work on the actual manufacturing of chips, say in etching, dielectric or metal deposition, etc., you are best off with a materials science, chemical engineering, physics or chemistry degree. I have a EE PhD from University of Illinois, but I focused on compound semiconductor materials, so my thesis work was more materials science than hardcore EE. No matter which major you pick, try to get some materials, hivac, analytical techniques (spectroscopy, microscopy, etc) experience if possible.

Let me know if you have questions.
 
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I have spent the last 28 years of my life working in a cleanroom, doing R&D on computer chip manufacturing. I started as a new engineer after grad school and worked my way up the technical ladder and now lead an engineering department with 200+ engineers. So, I know exactly what you need if you want to work in chipmaking.

If you consider a company like, say, Intel, and you want to work on the computer chip side (as opposed to building the fabs or running the electrical and chemical delivery systems and so on), you have about 5 typical categories of technical focus areas.

The first is software. It can range from optimizing operating systems and firmware to run on your hardware, write applications, etc., etc. Get a CS degree with focus on software for this.

Second is computer architecture. Again, a CS or computer engineering degree will be the best for thjs.

Third is circuit design. Get a EE degree with a lot of focus on computer aided design, SPICE simulations, extraction, etc.

All of the above are out of fab jobs.

Now, we get into jobs that are more fab centric.

If you want to focus on the electrical characteristics of semiconductor devices, get a EE degree focusing on that. You can work on transistor design, testing, quality and reliability, etc. This can be in-fab or our of fab in a lab setting.

If you want to work on the actual manufacturing of chips, say in etching, dielectric or metal deposition, etc., you are best off with a materials science, chemical engineering, physics or chemistry degree. I have a EE PhD from University of Illinois, but I focused on compound semiconductor materials, so my thesis work was more materials science than hardcore EE. No matter which major you pick, try to get some materials, hivac, analytical techniques (spectroscopy, microscopy, etc) experience if possible.

Let me know if you have questions.
In general do you need and advanced degree (MS/PHD) in any of those majors if you want to do either circuit design or actual manufacturing?
 

Scrumhalf

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In general do you need and advanced degree (MS/PHD) in any of those majors if you want to do either circuit design or actual manufacturing?
Depends. If you are trying to get into an R&D position, a PhD may be required. In my department, it is a must. But in some of the manufacturing sites, a master's should be sufficient. I don't know about a BS. Circuit design opens the doors much wider, as there are many fabless companies that do their own design and then send it to a foundry to get their chip manufactured. You should visit websites of various companies to see what they are hiring.
 
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Depends. If you are trying to get into an R&D position, a PhD may be required. In my department, it is a must. But in some of the manufacturing sites, a master's should be sufficient. I don't know about a BS. Circuit design opens the doors much wider, as there are many fabless companies that do their own design and then send it to a foundry to get their chip manufactured. You should visit websites of various companies to see what they are hiring.
I know this is random, but is it possible for me to just get my bachelors in computer science and get my masters or doctorate in electrical engineering or any other engineering field?
 

Scrumhalf

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Of course. CS to EE is sometimes a natural evolution, especially if you work on the hardware side. To other engineering disciplines, also possible if your CS focus is on simulations, etc.. However, I suspect that the coursework and prerequisites will be more daunting. The best answer would probably be provided by the graduate student adviser in those departments at your school.
 
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I know this is random, but is it possible for me to just get my bachelors in computer science and get my masters or doctorate in electrical engineering or any other engineering field?
Many people will probably disagree with me on this one. However, if you're debating between CS and EE, I would generally go with EE. A decent EE curriculum will include some programming classes, and software development is becoming an increasingly important skill in EE. As an EE major, you'll be able to develop a sufficient background in software engineering, yet also delve into a lot of hardware/circuit design topics that a CS major just wouldn't be able to do. Personally, I think it's easier to switch from EE to CS than it is to switch from CS to EE, but again, I'm probably going to get a lot of criticism for this.
 

Scrumhalf

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Well, again, it depends on exactly what you want to do. I agree that EE occupies the middle ground where you can end up either in a computer design oriented position or on the manufacturing side. But if you are going to focus on writing an operating system or doing hardcore software work, or computer architecture, a CS degree may be better. But if you want to do circuit or transistor work, clearly you need a EE degree.
 
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Well, again, it depends on exactly what you want to do. I agree that EE occupies the middle ground where you can end up either in a computer design oriented position or on the manufacturing side. But if you are going to focus on writing an operating system or doing hardcore software work, or computer architecture, a CS degree may be better. But if you want to do circuit or transistor work, clearly you need a EE degree.
I would agree. CS/CpE would be preferable if you know you're interested in systems programming. But if you're on the fence, I still think it's easier to jump ship from EE to that sort of a position than it is to go from a systems programming focus to circuit design. But then again, there are grey areas, like in front-end ASIC design and verification, where your work isn't much different from software. I've seen CS people get into those fields, especially verification.
 

analogdesign

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I can weigh in on the degree required for chip design. The entry-level degree in integrated circuit design is the MS, and many, many new designers have Ph.Ds. It is rare, although not by any stretch impossible, to get hired to do IC Design with a BS.

Also, the semiconductor industry is significantly consolidating right now. There are many fewer Integrated Device Manufacturers and Fabless semiconductor companies than there were just a few years ago. Companies are getting increasingly picky about who they hire out of school. I recently posted a job for a new analog designer and got over 200 applications. A lot of these folks were from companies who have been recently acquired or have recently shut down IC Design operations (such as Oracle and Cisco).

On the other hand, more and more system companies are starting up IC Design. For example, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon,and Apple (especially Apple) are hiring loads of new chip designers.

And if you add up the two hands, is opportunity increasing or decreasing? I honestly don't know. I do know the job is changing.
 
I have spent the last 28 years of my life working in a cleanroom, doing R&D on computer chip manufacturing. I started as a new engineer after grad school and worked my way up the technical ladder and now lead an engineering department with 200+ engineers. So, I know exactly what you need if you want to work in chipmaking.

If you consider a company like, say, Intel, and you want to work on the computer chip side (as opposed to building the fabs or running the electrical and chemical delivery systems and so on), you have about 5 typical categories of technical focus areas.

The first is software. It can range from optimizing operating systems and firmware to run on your hardware, write applications, etc., etc. Get a CS degree with focus on software for this.

Second is computer architecture. Again, a CS or computer engineering degree will be the best for thjs.

Third is circuit design. Get a EE degree with a lot of focus on computer aided design, SPICE simulations, extraction, etc.

All of the above are out of fab jobs.

Now, we get into jobs that are more fab centric.

If you want to focus on the electrical characteristics of semiconductor devices, get a EE degree focusing on that. You can work on transistor design, testing, quality and reliability, etc. This can be in-fab or our of fab in a lab setting.

If you want to work on the actual manufacturing of chips, say in etching, dielectric or metal deposition, etc., you are best off with a materials science, chemical engineering, physics or chemistry degree. I have a EE PhD from University of Illinois, but I focused on compound semiconductor materials, so my thesis work was more materials science than hardcore EE. No matter which major you pick, try to get some materials, hivac, analytical techniques (spectroscopy, microscopy, etc) experience if possible.

Let me know if you have questions.
Hey there. What if I’m already working in a fab specifically in lithography, what graduate degree should I pursue that will help me in my work. I graduated with a BS in chemical engineering and I know a masters in chemical engineering won’t help me that much because the focus will be advanced reaction kinetics, advanced heat and mass transfer, advanced thermodynamics etc. and that doesn’t help much in lithography.
 

ZapperZ

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Hey there. What if I’m already working in a fab specifically in lithography, what graduate degree should I pursue that will help me in my work. I graduated with a BS in chemical engineering and I know a masters in chemical engineering won’t help me that much because the focus will be advanced reaction kinetics, advanced heat and mass transfer, advanced thermodynamics etc. and that doesn’t help much in lithography.
You have described what you do and what you know. But you never indicated what you want to be when you grow up. So how can we tell you which route to take, when you never specify your destination?

Zz.
 

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