According to Dr Karthik, with a sound knowledge of VLSI, you can be involved in the design phase of a project as a product engineer and ensure manufacturability; develop characterisation plan, assembly guidelines, quality assurance and reliability plan. Further, you can evaluate the chip in terms of characterisation, reliability qualification and manufacturing yield. “You will be responsible for production release as well as for customer returns, failure analysis and corrective actions including design changes during the post-production phase,” adds Dr Karthik.
In the role of a test or verification engineer, you have to generate and run tests on the chip to ensure proper functionality. It involves development of behavioural models, test benches and simulation environments, module integration, complete functional and regression test suites, functional coverage analysis and a reusable test infrastructure.
An application or implementation engineer defines new products from the customers’ point of view, based on the inputs received from the marketing team. “His mission is to ensure that the chip works in the designed system or used by the customers, and complies with appropriate standards (such as Ethernet, SONET and WiFi). He will be responsible for all customer technical support, firmware development, evaluation boards, datasheets and all product documentation such as application notes, trade shows, magazine articles, evaluation reports, software drives and so on,” says Dr Karthik.
How much rewarding can it be?
Generally, salaries are based on individual skillsets and qualifications. According to Bhagat, an engineer with a bachelor’s degree can expect anything between Rs 300,000 and Rs 600,000 per annum. Many companies give higher salaries to engineers with M.Tech/PhD degrees.
“Design engineers are the most sought after because of the industry’s emphasis on continuous new product development, miniaturisation and innovation in integration. Typically, a graduate with a master’s degree can expect about 10 per cent higher than the one with a bachelor’s degree, and someone with a PhD degree can expect a wide range,” says C.P. Ravikumar, technical director-university relation, Texas Instruments.
Design engineers are the most sought after because of the industry’s emphasis on continuous new product development, miniaturisation and innovation in integration.
—C.P. Ravikumar, Technical Director-University Relation, Texas Instruments
Based oncontinual performance, knowledge and competence, you can expect steep growth in remuneration as well as roles and responsib-ilities. The growth prospects for professionals in Indian companies are definitely promising given the scarcity of talent. For example, a young engineer can easily grow to become a team leader or project manager in a span of six to nine years. The ability to handle multitasking jobs may be a defining factor. As you gain experience, this field offers one of the best growth potentials, both on the technical as well as management front. Though the global recession has hugely affected starting salaries in the private sector at present, the previous year’s industry feedback reveals an average pay package between Rs 700,000 and Rs 1.5 million per annum for a four-to five-year-experienced professional.
How to get chosen?
“For VLSI design, companies prefer BE/B.Tech, ME/M.Tech and PhD holders with specialisation in electron¬ics, telecommunications and electri¬cal VLSI domains. Typically, these professionals should have hands-on experience in systems design, digital application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) design, physical design, mixed-signal IC design, VHDL or VHSIC (very high-speed integrated circuit), VLSI design, circuit design and simulations, microcontrollers, digital PCB design and routing. You can expect an engineer with M.Tech/PhD degree and VLSI skills to have an edge in the job market,” explains Bhagat.
An aspirant in this field is expected to know the physics of semiconductor devices, linear systems, probability and random variables, engineering mathematics, circuit analysis and engineering electromagnetics.
—Dr S.Karthik, Engineering Director, India Product Development Centre, Analog Devices India
For working in this field, it is mandatory to have in-depth knowledge of either electronics, electrical or computer science. Though an engineering degree is the obvious qualification to earn, graduate and postgraduates in physics also qualify to become an engineer. The physics of semiconductor devices is the fundamental basis of VLSI.
“The subject of VLSI design is quite vast. It is not fair to expect both breadth and depth from a fresh recruit. At the undergraduate level, we expect a good understanding of fundamental concepts. Our campus recruitment is based on a written test and an interview.