Careers in the Semiconductor Industry
A semiconductor is a material that has a resistivity between that of a conductor and an insulator. There are many jobs related to this field because semiconductor devices include the transistor, many kinds of diodes including the light-emitting diode, the silicon controlled rectifier, and digital and analog integrated circuits. In a metallic conductor, current is carried by the flow of electrons. In semiconductors, current can be carried either by the flow of electrons (n-type semiconductor) or by the flow of positively-charged holes in the electron structure of the material (p-type). A pure semiconductor is an intrinsic semiconductor. The conductivity of an intrinsic semiconductor material can changed by adding impurities in a process called doping. Semiconductor devices have replaced thermionic devices (vacuum tubes) in most applications. Semiconductor devices are manufactured both as single discrete devices and as integrated circuits (ICs), which consist of a number—from a few to millions—of devices manufactured and interconnected on a single semiconductor substrate.
There are many career opportunities in designing and manufacturing diodes, which are formed by joining n-type and p-type semiconductors. The junction rectifies alternating current, detects light in photodetectors, and generates light in LEDs. Bipolar (holes and electrons) junction transistors (BJTs) are formed from two p-n junctions and are used for amplification and switching. Another type of transistor, the field-effect transistor (electrons only) (FET) operates on the principle that semiconductor conductivity can be increased or decreased by the presence of an electric field. The field may be applied by a p-n junction, forming a junction field-effect transistor (JFET), or by an electrode isolated from the bulk material by an oxide layer. The latter, a metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistor (MOSFET), is the most used semiconductor device today. A charge-coupled device (CCD), microprocessor, random access memory, and read-only memory are examples of multi-terminal semiconductor devices.
An enormous number of careers paths exist in this $249 billion dollar industry. The biggest companies are Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (NYSE: TSM), United Microelectronics Corporation (NYSE: UMC), Intel Corporation (NASDAQ: INTC), Toshiba Corporation, NEC Corporation, Sony Corporation, International Business Machines Corporation (NYSE: IBM), Samsung Group, Texas Instruments (NYSE: TXN), STMicroelectronics, and NXP Semiconductors.