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IC Design Job for an Idiot

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Jan 4, 2013
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Do I need to have a degree in EE to get a job in IC design or at least discrete circuits?

I'm a self-studier currently studying the basics, but I will be seeking a job in the chip industry. I will study IC analysis and design and prepare myself for interviews. How can I show a working demo of an IC? Does it have to be a chip or can I just show a circuit that does something that can be packaged as an IC?


I do not think you can get a job as IC designer without a degree. to do this you would have to be an Einstein, create a working chip that shows great understanding and innovation. This would be nearly impossible to do since design software, verification software, and foundry costs are very expensive. I know of free layout tools, but not of schematic editors, or verification tools. and foundry costs even on a shuttle run are the cost of a nice shiny new bmw. Without a working chip I find it hard to believe a company would take a gamble on you with no degree or transcript to back up your claimed knowledge. the most difficult part would be getting through the automated filters and being selected for an interview (hence why Einstein type fame would be needed) There was a girl designer that was able to achieve this a few years back, a redhead from washington I think, but she raised her capitol by running and owning a computer repair store chain, she then was able to translate the commodore 64 into a modern ic(with the help of a company that hired her after a software version was presented at a conference of some kind). I think she ended up getting hired by valve as an ic designer but was recently laid off.

I know it would be near impossible to make it to the interview process in my company( a large ic company) without a degree or proof of ability(experience). if you really understand the concepts and can show a sharp mind and capability to learn, you might be able to find a very small design company that will take a gamble on you.

if you truly wish to pursue this path I strongly recommend some type of school program. perhaps enter the field as a layout engineer then try to progress over to a designer.

I agree with Pb. Also, even with 20 years IC design experience I find companies are very picky about the processes and design tools you have used (although I freelance so that may be a little different). Knowing Spice modelling inside out seems less important to them than driving the Cadence GUI. Having designed CMOS, bipolar and SOI from 3um downwards you still find them worrying about which foundry you used and the fact that they use a different one. That is probably why most of my design work is for customers who know very little about IC design but just want a working chip, on time, which is what they get.

To re-iterate Pb, I don't think you are going to look very convincing if you are self taught without some of your own designs proven through to silicon. A teaching establishment should allow you to do that with a small chip in some process or other. You will also hopefully get a degree or some other recognisable qualification.

My specialisation is analogue. It may be possible to "break into" IC design in the digital domain by having proven designs using FPGAs, using VHDL/Verilog, but I am not sure. I do know someone who has come into IC design from the FPGA direction. Some front end tools for FPGA design can be used IC design but the layout needs different tools I believe. However, I am guessing your interest is analogue.


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