To become a semiconductor engineer, you’ll need to put in a lot of time and effort. As a laboratory or manufacturing technician, you only need a high school diploma, but many semiconductor jobs and careers require advanced degrees and graduate-level education. Electrical and computer engineering, advanced chemistry and materials science, and very specific knowledge of complex microelectronic systems and nanotechnology are all required for semiconductor careers.
If you’re just starting out on your path to becoming a semiconductor engineer, there are many different paths to take, and different names are often used for the same types of work or schooling. Before you can develop a complete understanding of how the field works in your area, you’ll need to learn a little about semiconductors and microelectronic engineering. Knowing as much as possible about the different terminology used for careers, industries, and academic or technical disciplines related to semiconductor engineering is helpful when researching schools and training programs.
A technical or associate’s degree for semiconductor process engineers is one route to becoming a semiconductor engineer. You can become an electronic engineering technician with just a few years of training, assisting in the design and development of semiconductor chips and integrated circuits used in electronic products. You might test or operate specialized equipment like etching or wafer thinning machines in this role. You could work in a microlithography lab or help with the manufacturing process.
You’ll need to learn basic applied science and mathematics even at the associate’s level. You’ll likely learn computer programming and technical communication as well as technical physics, circuitry, and microprocessors. Although there is less emphasis on theory and general education than in some broader engineering technology programs, you will have sufficient specialization in electronic engineering technology to begin at the entry level.
Enrolling in a certificate program at a local community or technical college, or a university’s continuing education program, is another way to become a semiconductor engineer. An electronic engineering technology certificate may only require a one-year course of study, but it will provide sufficient training to get started in the field. The courses for such programs will be similar to those for an associate’s degree in semiconductor process engineering, but they will not be as career specific, making it more difficult to find work.
It’s useful to know what skill level and technical niche you might eventually fit into when researching how to become a semiconductor engineer. Semiconductor manufacturing technology, engineering integrated circuits and systems, integrated circuit design and techniques, microelectronic engineering, nanotechnology, and chemical engineering are some of the other names for the same industry or technical disciplines. Many of these descriptive terms can overlap when it comes to programs and careers. Semiconductor device engineers, as well as more advanced researchers and developers, typically need a master’s or doctoral degree.