VLSI stands for Very Large Scale Integration. It’s all about Integrated Circuit (IC) design. Usually, we call it a Chip design. Anyone who is planning to start their career in the VLSI semiconductor industry needs to have a better understanding of the jobs and growth opportunities in the VLSI domain.
Is VLSI a good career?
VLSI field is highly technical and completely based on electronics engineering. Usually, only candidates with a background in electronics engineering can get into semiconductor industries because it requires a minimum of BE/BTech/BS in ECE/EEE as a basic qualification. However, Computer Science/IT engineers can also try for some specific jobs, with good knowledge of digital fundamentals and software programming. It is a lucrative field that is automation-resistant. You always need SoCs and embedded systems to design the robots!
What are the job opportunities in the VLSI industry and what are the roles of a VLSI engineer?
There are plenty of job opportunities in the semiconductor industries. To properly align your career goals and your training you need to have a better understanding of the job titles and job profiles that a career in VLSI has to offer. More importantly, you should know about your strengths and personal attributes and choose the right job accordingly. Let us look at the various job opportunities and designations in the VLSI industry.
1. Design Engineer
In this designation, you are mainly responsible for design implementation. You need to be technically sound. This job does not demand high interpersonal skills but still, you need to be effective in communicating your ideas. There are a few subdomains in this designation which are classified according to the technology you will be working with.
Design Engineer subdomains – According to the technology employed
- ASIC – Application Specific Integrated Circuit design
- FPGA – Field Programmable Gate Arrays
- AMS – Analog Mixed Signal design
- DFT – Design For Test
- Custom Designs – Transistor level
- PCB – Board Design
Design Engineer – Designation specific titles
- Front-end designer – ASIC/FPGA
- Back-end designer
- AMS designer
- DFT engineer
- PCB designer – Board design
- Library developer
2. Verification Engineer
A Verification engineer’s job captures the verification stage of the overall chip manufacturing process. The engineer’s task is to verify the design and makes sure that the design works properly. There is always a huge demand for this position because verification does not require a fully-fledged semiconductor lab. Almost 70% of the VLSI jobs in India are in the verification department. A lot of US-based companies outsource this job to countries like India and the UK.
For this job, you need to be extremely good at programming. If you like software programming/coding/scripting, this job is good for you. You are also expected to always be in sync with the current industry trends. According to the stages of development, the various subdomains of a verification engineer are classified as follows.
Verification Engineer subdomains – According to the stage of development
- Front-end verification – simulation
- Acceleration/Emulation – Validation
- Hardware Software co-verification
- Product validation – Validating the EDA tools
- Behavioral Modeling – modeling the design
- Verification IP implementation – TB developers
Verification Engineer – Designation specific titles
- Front-end verification engineers
- Validation engineers
- Modeling engineers
- Verification Consultants
3. CAD Engineer
This job entails you to be mainly responsible for managing the license and EDA tools. You will also evaluate EDA solutions and methodologies. Additionally, you will be asked to integrate various EDA tools and develop workflows. You will work in tandem with design and design verification teams. Additionally, you will also be required to work with the EDA vendors and will be responsible for driving improvements in the work environments for other players of the SoC/Chip design team.
You need to know how to interact with others. This job demands good interpersonal skills. You should always update yourself on the latest technologies and methodologies.
4. Application Engineer
This job title makes you responsible for the interface between the R&D and customers.
You need to know how to interact with others. This job demands good interpersonal skills and a lot of traveling. If you feel that you are a highly communicative, good presenter, good at building relationships and good at technologies, etc., you are the right candidate for this job.
Verification Engineer subdomains – According to the customer’s requirement
- Field Application Engineer – Pre-sales
- Corporate Application Engineer – Post-sales
- Application Consultants
5. Marketing & Sales
Promotes the brand and sells the products. A good application engineer can easily become a marketing or sales executive if he has an interest in sales.
How to become a VLSI engineer? What are the industry’s skill requirements to be a VLSI engineer?
Though VLSI is treated as hardware design, VLSI engineers design the chips using special hardware description languages (HDL) like VHDL and Verilog, as software programmers. So you need to be well versed in an HDL. VHDL is used in India and Verilog is common in America. You should also familiarize yourself with SystemVerilog and verification libraries like OVM/UVM. It’s also necessary to be well versed in OOPs concepts and CMOS concepts. Some scripting language skill is also necessary. Python is quite a versatile language for this purpose. Software industries mainly look for your IQ and programming skills. They do not differentiate candidates based on their knowledge in their engineering domain.
In the VLSI domain, if you are really passionate about electronics engineering, you would perform well and grow fast. It’s very easy to differentiate yourself from others because you are competing only with the other electronics engineer.
I have just outlined the personal attributes that are highly required for these jobs. But it does not mean that only these attributes are enough to get into the industry and perform well. If you really want to differentiate yourself from others and perform outstandingly, you need to be a good team player, flexible, knowledgeable, hard-working, positive and energetic, irrespective of the work/job that you do.
What is the average salary of a VLSI engineer?
The salaries in this profession are quite handsome and increase as you climb up the corporate ladder. Of course, like the compensation for any job, here too, it depends on your location. You can always use glassdoor to get the latest average salaries for your designation in your geographical location. However, here are two screenshots that would give you an idea of the average salary for VLSI jobs.
What is the structure of this free VLSI course?
This course will be building up from the knowledge you gained in the digital electronics and digital logic design course. If you haven’t completed that course, don’t worry. All you need to do is brush up your knowledge of basic digital circuits like logic gates, adders, and subtracters, encoders, decoders, code converters, and multipliers. We will dive right into coding in VHDL and learn the syntax and different operators along the way. We will look at all the three styles of coding: Structural, data flow and behavioral. Moreover, we will also get into the nitty-gritty of the physical construction of a CMOS. We will understand the steps involved in the physical construction of a CMOS and also learn its physical characteristics.
What are you going to learn in this VLSI and CMOS course?
- Different modeling styles: Behavioral, Structural, Dataflow.
- VHDL coding for common digital circuits
- How to approach an HDL coding challenge
- CMOS Fabrication
- CMOS physical characteristics
What are the prerequisites for this VHDL course?
You need to have a basic understanding of digital electronics and digital circuits.