Microelectronics technicians work in research laboratories assisting the engineering staff to develop and construct prototype and custom-designed microchips. Microchips, often called simply chips, are tiny but extremely complex electronic devices that control the operations of many kinds of communications equipment, consumer products, industrial controls, aerospace guidance systems, and medical electronics. The process of manufacturing chips is often called fabrication.
Microelectronics Technician Career History
The science of electronics is only about 100 years old. Yet electronics has had an enormous impact on the way people live. Without electronics, things like television, computers, X-ray machines, and radar would not be possible. Today, nearly every area of industry, manufacturing, entertainment, health care, and communications uses electronics to improve the quality of people’s lives. This article you are reading, for example, was created by people using electronic equipment, from the writing of each article to the design, layout, and production of the book itself.
Integrated circuits are miniaturized electronic systems. Integrated circuits include many interconnected electronic components such as transistors, capacitors, and resistors, produced on or in a single thin slice of a semiconductor material. Semiconductors are so named because they are substances with electrical properties somewhere between those of conductors and insulators. The semiconductor used most frequently in microchips is silicon, so microchips are also sometimes called silicon chips. Often smaller than a fingernail, chips may contain multiple layers of complex circuitry stacked on top of each other. The word integrated refers to the way the circuitry is blended into the chip during the fabrication process.
Some microelectronics technicians specialize in the fabrication and testing of semiconductors and integrated circuits. These technicians are usually called semiconductor development technicians. They are involved in the development of prototype chips, following the direction of engineering staff, and perform the various steps required for making and testing new integrated circuits.
Microelectronics Technician Career Requirements
The advanced technology involved in microelectronics means that post-high school education or training is a requirement for entering the field. You should consider enrolling in a two-year training program at a community college or vocational training facility and expect to earn a certificate or an associate’s degree. Like most microelectronics technicians, Kyle Turner completed a two-year degree in electronics as well as an extensive on-the-job training program.
High school students interested in microelectronics can begin their preparation by taking courses such as algebra and geometry. If you have taken science courses, especially chemistry and physics, you will have a better chance to enter an apprenticeship program and you will be more prepared for postsecondary educational programs.
Knowledge of proper grammar and spelling is necessary for writing reports, and you should also develop your reading comprehension. Taking industrial classes, such as metalworking, wood shop, auto shop, and machine shop, and similar courses in plastics, electronics, and construction techniques will be helpful.
Microelectronics technicians generally work a 40-hour week, although they may be assigned to different shifts or be required to work weekends and holidays. Overtime and holiday pay can usually be expected in such circumstances. The work setting is extremely clean, well lighted, and dust free.
Microelectronics technicians have many duties, and this requires them to be flexible yet focused as they perform their duties. They have to be exact and precise in their work no matter what they’re doing, whether building an electronic component, running the tests, or recording the data. The fact that each day is often very different from the one before it is an aspect of the job that many technicians find appealing.
Microelectronics Technician Career Outlook
This in turn will create a demand for workers with the skills and training to sustain the industry’s growth. In addition, as more and more manufacturers adapt electronic technology to their products and manufacturing processes, the need for skilled personnel will also increase.
The increasing reliability and durability of electronic technology, however, will have some effect on the need for technicians. Similarly, increasing imports of microelectronics products, components, and technology may represent a decrease in production in this country, which will in turn decrease the numbers of microelectronics technicians needed here. Additionally, the use of advanced technologies, such as computer-aided design and drafting and computer simulation, will improve worker productivity and limit employment growth. Nevertheless, the government will continue to account for a large part of the demand for microelectronics components, technology, and personnel.