Electronic Semiconductor Processor  What They Do

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dotSemiconductor 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 technician.

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 devices.

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 month.

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 commands.

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 markets.

Just the Facts

Want a quick overview of what this career is about?Check out Just the Facts for simple lists of characteristics.

At a Glance

Help build microchips in electronic products

  • Problem solving is an important part of the job
  • Computer skills and a basic understanding of math are essential
  • Work for government organizations, universities, large companies or small firms