Training, Certifications, Skills, Advancement: Semiconductor Processors

People interested in becoming semiconductor processors—either operators or technicians—need a solid background in mathematics and the physical sciences. In addition to applying these disciplines to the complex manufacturing processes performed in fabs, math and science knowledge are essentials for pursuing higher education in semiconductor technology—and knowledge of both subjects is one of the best ways to advance in the semiconductor fabricating field.

Semiconductor processor workers must also be able to think analytically and critically to anticipate problems and avoid costly mistakes. Communication skills also are vital, as workers must be able to convey their thoughts and ideas both orally and in writing.

For semiconductor processor jobs, employers prefer persons who have completed associate degree programs. However, completion of a 1-year certificate program in semiconductor technology offered by some community colleges, supplemented by experience, may also be sufficient; Some semiconductor technology programs at community colleges include internships at a semiconductor fabricating plants. Others persons also may qualify by completing a degree in high-tech manufacturing, a new degree offered by some community colleges that prepares graduates to work in the semiconductor industry, as well as other industries such as pharmaceuticals, aerospace, or automotive. Degree or certificate program graduates who get hands-on training while attending school should have the best prospects.

To ensure that operators and technicians keep their skills current, many employers provide 40 hours of formal training annually. Some employers also provide financial assistance to employees who want to earn associate and bachelorís degrees to further their career or to work towards becoming a technician.

Summer and part-time employment provide another option for getting started in the field for those who are at least 18 years old and live near a semiconductor processing plant. Students often are hired to work during the summer, and some students are allowed to continue working part time during the school year. Students in summer and part-time semiconductor processor jobs learn what education they need to prosper in the field. They also gain valuable experience that may lead to full-time employment after graduation.

Some semiconductor processing technicians transfer to sales engineer jobs with suppliers of the machines that manufacture the semiconductors or become field support personnel.