12 Emerging Career Paths in the Semiconductor Industry

The semiconductor industry is a vital sector of modern commerce involving the design, manufacture, and distribution of chips, also known as integrated circuits (ICs).

ICs are electronic components made from semiconductor materials that provide electrical conductivity between insulators and conductors and are crucial to everyday electronic devices like computers, smartphones, cameras, smartphones, automotive systems, and industrial machinery.

Over the past few years, you probably heard about the chip shortage. Thanks to the ongoing supply chain recovery and the U.S. CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, the industry is in full swing, thriving, and needs industrious professionals seeking chips semiconductors careers.

Let’s take a closer look at this exciting industry and how you can become an important part of it.

What Is the Semiconductors Industry?

Over the past several decades, chips and semiconductors have emerged as an industry of their own. Many companies design, manufacture, market, and sell IC semiconductors.

According to a May 2023 Semiconductor Industry Organization article, global semiconductor sales reached $574 billion in 2022, with U.S. sales accounting for $275 billion. As the industry continues to rebound, it will need professionals to support ongoing needs and new growth.

While the United States has numerous companies in the global semiconductor industry, other countries dominate this area, including Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and the Netherlands.

RELATED: Why the U.S. Is Investing in Chips and Semiconductors

Careers in the Semiconductor Industry

If you have just started considering a career in this exciting field, it might help you to understand some career specializations you might consider for the right fit.

Here are a few semiconductors industry specializations that you might focus on:

  • System and application software development
  • System integration and testing
  • Heat and mass transfer
  • Imaging and lithography performance
  • Electronics
  • Mechatronics
  • Electron optics

Basic Job Duties and Overall Requirements

While some duties for professionals in this industry are related to specific careers, some overarching skills are also needed:

  • Designing, developing, and testing manufactured devices using semiconductors
  • Optimizing the design and manufacturing process of ICs and semiconductors
  • Improving yield, reliability, and performance of chips and semiconductors
  • Designing and developing integrated circuits
  • Operating and maintaining equipment used in the manufacture of semiconductor devices
  • Ensuring proper packaging for shipment of semiconductor devices
  • Marketing semiconductor devices
  • Conducting research and development (R&D) to find and develop new ways to use chips and semiconductors
  • Providing quality control and assurance by testing semiconductor devices before release and shipment

How Will You Support the Industry in Your Role?

As you can see, there are many ways you can support the industry. You may not need to have the most technical, science-based skills if you pursue an area like marketing. However, you still need to have a firm understanding of the products you will be marketing.

But any path you choose can help to support this fascinating industry set for increasing growth.

Woman in white sleeved shirt in an IT room running a test on a computer

Specific Career Paths in the Semiconductor Industry

Now that you know some courses of study you might pursue to earn a position in this industry, you would probably like to learn about some specific semiconductor careers available to you.

Here are some career fields for you to consider upon college graduation or for your next career in your professional life.

Semiconductor Engineer

As a semiconductor engineer, you will help design, develop, and test semiconductor devices, integrated circuits, software, modules, and interfaces and structures. You may choose to specialize in studies like circuit design, device engineering, or process engineering.

Process Engineer

A process engineer focuses on the development and optimization of the manufacturing processes that produce semiconductor devices. Your work will involve improving performance, yield, and reliability by adjusting factors like equipment used, process design, and optimization.

Semiconductor Manufacturing Technician

In this career, you will be instrumental in the production and assembly of semiconductor devices, operating and maintaining equipment, monitoring production processes, and conducting quality control checks.

Integrated Circuit Designer

This highly technical career choice focuses on ICs, and you will use tools and programming languages, including VHDL or Verilog, to design circuit frameworks, optimize chip performance, and assign chip placements.

Alternative job titles for this career include:

  • Hardware engineer
  • ASIC design engineer
  • PCB layout engineer

Semiconductor Packaging Engineer

A semiconductor packaging engineer carries out design and development activities to support the physical and electrical packaging of ICs, from the idea to the simulation to the final packaging decision. You will ensure the proper protection, interconnection, and thermal management of the chips.

Field Service Engineer

A field service engineer (FSE) in the semiconductor industry is a technician who’s responsible for the installation, maintenance, and repair of semiconductor processing equipment. In this role, you’ll install new equipment, troubleshoot and repair existing equipment, provide customer support and training, and more. You’ll also need to be able to communicate effectively with customers and other engineers.

Test Engineer

It is crucial to know how well each semiconductor device works before it is released for sale to the public. As a test engineer, you will be responsible for developing and implementing test methodologies to gauge the functionality and performance of the devices, conducting tests, analyzing results, troubleshooting issues, and repeating the full process until satisfied.

Sales and Marketing

As noted earlier, sales and marketing are crucial components in getting everyone’s hard work out to consumers. In this role, you will promote and sell manufactured semiconductor devices, identify market opportunities, build customer relationships, develop business strategies, and ensure revenue growth.

people collaborating around a table

Research and Development (R&D)

In R&D, you will explore new technologies, materials, and device frameworks to promote and develop new semiconductor technologies. In this career, you will focus on trends, innovations, and future technologies to guide you and your business toward new ideas for your organization.

Applications Engineer

As an applications engineer, you will work closely with customers to gain insights into the user experience (UX) of your organization’s semiconductor devices. You will use your own insights and empathy as you listen to customers’ needs, desires, and disappointments with your products. You can also help them by providing technical support that will allow them to integrate semiconductor products into various applications relative to their lives.

With your work in this role, you can help improve and expand on existing products.

Supply Chain and Operations Engineer

This particular job has probably been exceptionally challenging for professionals the past few years, but since things are looking up in the industry, the pressure has probably lessened.

As a supply chain and operations engineer, you will work to oversee the planning, sourcing, manufacturing, distribution, and delivery of semiconductor products. Primary goals in this job focus on optimizing efficiency, reducing costs, and managing logistics.

Quality and Reliability Engineer

As a quality and reliability engineer, you will provide quality and reliability assurance of semiconductor products. You will develop and implement testing processes.

Salary for Professions in Semiconductors

The careers listed above are only a few of the many options you will have in this industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the pay mirrors the broad range of options, providing compensation that starts at around $52,000 and goes up to around $177,000.

Explore the Many Career Fields Within the Industry

There are so many exciting career opportunities awaiting you in the semiconductor industry. Our Insight Global team would love to help you find a semiconductor career that is perfectly suited to your strengths and interests.

And we welcome you to visit our job board, which features tons of job posts in the areas listed above and so many others in the semiconductor industry.