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Semiconductor Processors - What They Do

How to Advance (Advancement)
Workers advance as they become more comfortable with the equipment and better understand the manufacturing process. Employees train workers for several months, after which they become entry-level operators or technicians. After a few years, as they become more knowledgeable about the operations of the plant, they generally advance to the intermediate level. This entails greater responsibilities. Over time, usually 7 to 10 years, workers may become senior technicians, who lead teams of technicians and work directly with engineers to develop processes in the plant.

Semiconductor processors held approximately 31,600 jobs in 2008. Nearly all of them were employed in the computer and electronic product manufacturing industry.

Job Outlook
Employment of semiconductor processors is projected to decline rapidly through 2018. Opportunities will be best for those with associate degrees and experience working in high-tech manufacturing.

Job Growth
Employment of semiconductor processors is projected to decline by 32 percent between 2008 and 2018. This reflects a changing manufacturing environment in which technological advances have reduced the need for workers.

Most of the microchips produced in the United States are highly complex. The success of these chips depends chiefly on their speed and flexibility. Meeting both of these goals requires smaller individual components, which are now measured in nanometers (one millionth of a millimeter). Because the components are so small, it is now impossible for humans to handle chips in production, since these chips are so sensitive to dust and other particles. As a result, there has been a decline in semiconductor processor employment for many years, despite a strong domestic industry. As technology advances, the decline in employment is expected to continue.

Jobseekers can expect competition for these positions, in response to the rapid decline in employment. Nonetheless, some jobs will open up due to the need to replace workers who leave the occupation. Prospects will be best for applicants with associate degrees and experience in high-tech manufacturing. Like most manufacturing industries, the semiconductor industry is highly sensitive to economic downturns.

Despite competition for these jobs, however, people who are interested in this type of work should be aware that the duties of semiconductor processors closely resemble those of other high-tech manufacturing jobs. Many of the skills learned in an associate degree or technical school program—as well as on the job—are transferable to other occupations.

Median annual wages of wage-and-salary semiconductor processors were $32,230 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $26,650 and $40,220. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $21,980, and the top 10 percent earned more than $50,400.

Technicians with associate degrees in a related field generally start at higher salaries than those with less education.

Semiconductor processors generally received good benefits packages, including healthcare, disability plans and life insurance, stock options and retirement.

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