Semiconductor technicians help build semiconductors, or microchips. These
devices perform the thinking function within computers. They are in all of
the electronic products that we use every day, such as cell phones and smart
phones, satellites and cars.
Semiconductor technicians are electronics technicians who work in the semiconductor
industry. They may go by various names, including process technician and project
These technicians work in a "fab" (a semiconductor fabrication facility).
They wear a "bunny suit" (a garment covering their entire body to help keep
dirt away from the semiconductors). And they tinker with microscopic electronic
What exactly are semiconductors? They are tiny electronic circuits engraved
onto a silicon wafer. Each wafer contains hundreds of these circuits, also
known as microchips. As mentioned above, microchips are all around us -- in
television sets, digital watches, even traffic lights.
"In our industry, silicon is the primary material we work with," says Cheryl
Major. She's a project technician in Boston. "However, there are other unique
materials that we use to develop our products, such as aluminum nitride."
Semiconductor technicians perform a number of tasks that help in the production
of semiconductors. Their tasks vary depending on their specialty. For example,
manufacturing technicians (also called fabrication technicians) spend their
days operating the equipment used to make microchips. Equipment technicians
are constantly testing equipment and performing any necessary repairs. Microcontamination
technicians ensure that the room where the microchips are made remains as
pollution-free as possible.
Semiconductor technicians work for government organizations, universities,
large companies, as well as smaller firms that produce specialty microchips
for a specific market.
Working irregular hours is part of the job. Many fabs operate around the
clock. Technicians are often expected to work 12-hour rotating shifts. The
plus side of this "compressed" workweek is a greater number of days off each
If you're the sort of person who can't rest until you discover how something
works, then semiconductor technician might be the job for you. When problems
occur, technicians need to systematically examine all the possibilities until
they've rooted out the problem.
A basic grasp of math is a must for technicians. They must understand and
interpret all the data they've collected testing the equipment.
Computer skills are also essential. While technicians don't have to become
experts in programming languages, they do need to be familiar with basic computer
Worldwide semiconductor sales reached a record $299.5 billion (US) in 2011.
That's according to the Semiconductor Industry Association. The industry saw
especially strong demand in the optoelectronic, sensor and actuator, and microprocessor