Looking for a job in the lucrative semiconductor industry? Start here.
October 25, 2022
On August 9, 2022, the CHIPS and Science Act was signed into law in the United States. The law pledges $52.7 billion dollars for research, manufacturing, and education in the semiconductor industry. In the U.S., the law is likely to ramp up production of semiconductors, the delicate, wafer-thin microchips essential for all digital devices.
But for semiconductor production to increase, many in the industry have emphasized that a new workforce needs to be educated and trained. Currently, there are too few workers with required skills. This demand for workers, likely to remain high over the next decade, provides an opportunity for well-paying and rewarding careers.
According to SIA (the Semiconductor Industry Association), the average pay for jobs in the semiconductor industry in the U.S. is $150,000, far above the average pay for all manufacturing jobs, $65,000. Despite high pay, the industry has struggled to attract talent, a struggle likely to intensify as the semiconductor industry grows.
Given the rise of these job opportunities, it’s worth reviewing some basics of semiconductor job outlooks, education, and training for people considering a career in the semiconductor industry.
Current and future job outlook in the U.S. and globally
The semiconductor industry has long reported a skilled workforce shortage in the U.S. and since 2013 has urged the U.S. government to ease access to work visas for qualified engineers. The CHIPS and Science Act, anticipated to add as much as 42,000 industry jobs by 2030, may intensify the shortage.
East Asian countries, where most semiconductors are made, are also facing, or will soon face, labor shortages. In China, the labor shortage may now be as high as 300,000, while in Taiwan it exceeded 30,000 in the final quarter of 2021. Japan and South Korea are facing similar labor gaps.
To solve the problem, governments and businesses are beginning to offer more training and education opportunities across the globe. This year, Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan have all launched training and education initiatives to train future semiconductor workforces.
Semiconductor jobs and requirements
Industry experts tend to divide semiconductor jobs into two categories: engineers and skilled technicians. Workers in these jobs develop and make semiconductors.
Engineers are responsible for semiconductor research, design, and development. They are also responsible for designing and improving production processes. Engineer positions almost always require a bachelor’s degree, but demand for engineers with master’s degrees and Ph.D.’s is especially high.
SIA has identified increased need for engineers who have a bachelor’s or advanced degree and specialize in certain fields:
- Hardware engineering
- Software engineering
- Computer engineering
- Electrical engineering
- Material science
- Artificial intelligence
- Autonomous driving
- Data science
- Computer vision
While companies seek engineers with these specialties, many engineers lack targeted training in semiconductors, according to SIA. Increasingly, colleges and universities are recognizing this need and crafting programs to satisfy it (see next section). Companies are also seeking engineers who have human skills, such as business writing and critical thinking.
Skilled technicians make up the greatest percentage of manufacturing jobs in the semiconductor industry, as much as 38% of total industry jobs. Technicians operate and maintain advanced manufacturing equipment and are likely to work in fabrication facilities, known in the industry as “fabs.”
These positions usually require some college, an associate degree, or other training, like an internship or apprenticeship. Some companies also look for applicants with associate degrees in advance manufacturing, but that degree alone may be insufficient. Companies may expect applicants to have taken courses specific to semiconductors and to have hands-on experience. To meet this need, some community colleges now offer courses specific to semiconductor manufacturing.
Here are some positions and skills required for skilled technicians (this list is based on a career site operated by SEMI):
- Wafer fab technicians
- Wafer fab operators
- Semiconductor process technician
- Equipment maintenance technician
- Process integration technician
- Analytical lab technician
- Factory information control systems
- Facilities—instrumentation and controls, electrical, chemical, ultrapure water, wastewater treatment
Technicians typically work in clean rooms, spaces engineered to be practically free of microscopic contaminants. In these spaces, technicians must wear full-body suits, goggles, and masks and usually must stand throughout a shift. At some companies, shifts may be 12-hours long and occur at night.
Education, training, and career resources
Semiconductor career sites
SEMI’s career website: This website provides rich tools to explore career and education paths, a searchable list of colleges that offer relevant degrees and courses, and tools to connect with potential employers. It also explains the industry and jobs in detail. SEMI is a global industry association for electronics manufacturing.
National Talent Hub: This is a career development tool designed to connect job seekers with employers and training. The site also enables you to record credentials and skills that employers can view. This tool is new—it was released in July 2022—and may become more robust over time. It is operated by the National Institute for Innovation and Technology, a nonprofit that aims to help people find jobs in the semiconductor industry.
Engineering degree and certificate programs
Schools across the U.S. offer coursework, degrees, and certificates designed for semiconductor work. Here is a partial list of colleges and universities that offer degree programs:
- State University of New York, Degrees and Training for Careers in the Growing Semiconductor Industry
- Zippia, a career website, also maintains a list of colleges that graduate the greatest percentage of semiconductor engineers in the U.S.
Community college programs
Many community colleges, too numerous to list here, offer courses in semiconductor manufacturing. You may wish to check course listings and program offerings at community colleges near you. Some commentators consider Hudson Valley Community College (HVCC) an exemplar in semiconductor education. HVCC offers an associate’s degree program, Electrical Technology: Semiconductor Manufacturing, as well as a certificate program, Semiconductor Technology. Information on these programs may suggest what community colleges can offer if the U.S. were to scale these educational offerings.
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Education and training will likely grow as countries develop new policies to build a skilled semiconductor workforce. In September 2022, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced an initiative with Intel to invest $10 million dollars for training and education in semi-conductor manufacturing and research. But investments like this and funds from the CHIPS and Science Act—$13.2 billion for R&D and workforce development—will take time to materialize.Back to All News & Research