An associate's degree or certificate in electronic drafting or mask design is required to become a mask designer. A bachelor's degree in engineering, computer science and mathematics is also an option for those interested in pursing this career. Voluntary certification is available in this field.
Mask designers work in the semiconductor industry creating templates for making microchip processors and other electronic components. They use computer-aided drafting (CAD) to create the stencils needed in the process of building electronic components. Mask designers hold either a certificate or associate's degree in electronic drafting or mask design. Coursework for these programs includes circuit design and analysis, microelectronics, drafting techniques and CAD software programs.
|Required Education||Associate's degree or certificate|
|Required Skills||Proficiency in computer-aided drafting (CAD)|
|Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)*||3% for all electrical and electronics drafters|
|Median Salary (2018)*||$60,070 for all electrical and electronics drafters|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Job Description for Mask Designers
Mask designers create the microscopic pattern needed to build a microchip that can run various programs and commands. Known in the semiconductor industry as integrated circuit mask designers, these individuals create stencils that are used in the process of making silicone microchips and other computer components. The term 'mask' implies a particular template that controls the formation of microchip layers during production, according to the Intel Museum archives.
Mask designers are a subset of electronic drafters. Since these designers work with incredibly small components, they use computer-aided drafting (CAD) tools to create mask schematics, according to information from O*NET Online. Mask designers often work in clean room environments that require wearing protective clothing to prevent microscopic particles from causing malfunctions in microchip development.
Mask Designer Job Duties
Mask designers consult with clients and department administrators to determine what type of programs and functions are required of the integrated circuit board. Once that information is known, they use CAD tools to draft designs for the circuit board layout. Most rely predominantly on CAD tools, but mask designers also need to be comfortable with other methods of drafting. For example, clients who do not use CAD tools might provide traditional blueprints and schematics that a mask designer would need to understand and recreate with a CAD program.
Other duties of a mask designer may include supervising the production of a newly designed integrated circuit board and testing it to be sure that it is the correct design and the circuit board functions properly. If there are complications, the mask designer troubleshoots the problem and fixes it.
Requirements to Become a Mask Designer
Applicants for a mask designer job should possess a certificate or associate's degree in electronic drafting or mask design. Coursework for these programs includes circuit design and analysis, microelectronics, drafting techniques and CAD software programs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), most 4-year universities don't offer degree programs in drafting, but they may offer programs in related fields, such as engineering, computer science and mathematics.
Mask designers should possess advanced problem-solving skills. They also need to be good communicators able to discuss detailed design issues with others. Additional certification to work in the field is not required, but voluntary certification is available through industry vendors and trade organizations.
Career Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the number of jobs for electrical and electronics drafters - including mask designers - is expected to increase 3% from 2018-2028. The agency also reported that the median salary for these workers was $60,070 in 2018.
Mask designers create patterns to make microchips and electronic components. They need to be proficient in CAD and other drafting methods, and must possess problem-solving and communications skills, as well as a postsecondary degree. Job growth in this field is predicted to be slower than average from 2018-2028.