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Job titles remain the same but skillsets continue expanding

Posted: 25 Mar 2014     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:electrical engineering  hardware  software  semiconductor manufacturing 

Companies want to hire people with experience in design and system function, Liu said. Those with experience with successful designs will also know how and why designs don't work. As a result, hacking and making will be more valuable to companies making cheap devices or systems for the mass market.

Power management, power engineer

Officials from Intersil, which recently "realigned" its focus towards power management, said power engineers will be very valuable in the future.

"We certainly see a limited pool of power experts designing power sub systems for next generation equipment," the officials wrote, citing high powered datacenters and servers among the systems that need increased power efficiency. The company also said it sees a need for bright, young engineers. "We are an ageing industry and we need more students to study engineering at the university level to keep the influx of new talent."

Intersil is far from the only company realigning itself to focus on power; Fairchild Semiconductor recently announced power plans of its own.

Traditional titles

Systems, network, and mobile engineers will remain in demand in the coming years. Those in the networking and telecommunications fields also made the top-earning title list, earning between $82,000 and $156,000 a year. Systems engineers will also find work in extracting information from data and working with information systems.

"There are more software and firmware engineering jobs to support increased system complexity," the Intersil officials wrote. "There is more specialisation by application, with more application knowledge required. In general, engineers have to have a larger view of the full system than in the past."

Analogue designers, for example, are learning more about coding. Digital designers are becoming more aware of how to capture and compute analogue data in a way that provides accessible telemetry for smart applications.

Imagination president Krishna Yarlagadda told EE Times at CNDLive that analogue, wireless, and RF engineering are important because of the push to get everything in the cloud. Cadence's Rowen said: "It's only a matter of when, not if, all our appliances and devices in our homes become connected and start talking to each other."

Liu said: "Opportunities are still plentiful for design engineers, hardware engineers, product engineers. It does seem to be a trend that, in order to get an interesting job, you need to have a master's degree for the hardware side; not the case for software. This was not typical 10 years ago, mainly because there is so much more to learn nowadays."

Systems or hardware engineers may be employable at companies with large datacenters such as Google, which designs its own chips. Those engineers could design computer chips and datacenters to be more energy efficient.

"Make sure you get a design job," Ganssle suggested to engineering students. "A lot of engineers are sidelined into support arenas, and few of us really like that. Find a team that is excited about their work. Avoid big companies where engineers are just cogs in the system. Find a group where you can make a significant impact on the project; a lot of systems are so big today that no one really knows what is going on."

Trending down

"There are lots of areas that I personally think are going to not change as much as they did before... the whole integrated circuit technology growth area is starting to mature," Horowitz said. "So the people I know who are designing computers and chips are now using those same skills and applying them to different kinds of applications."

Additionally, Liu said there isn't much growth in silicon and IC manufacturing within the United States. There are manufacturing jobs overseas, but they aren't financially attractive. "At this point, we don't have as many fabs as in China, Taiwan. As manufacturing becomes pretty much all automated, maybe that will swing back to the US." The number of students taking classes in semiconductor manufacturing is going down.

Likewise, fields like information theory have traditionally had fewer jobs available. Those jobs typically go to PhD-level graduates, whose numbers are slumping.

- Jessica Lipsky
  EE Times

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