Printed circuit board designers design the circuit boards used in technologically enabled products. This career requires secondary education in a relevant field. The average annual salary for these positions is about $63,000.
Printed circuit boards (PCBs) hold the circuitry that drives computers and electronics. Aircraft, wind turbines, cars and toys are among the many machines and products that use these boards. A printed circuit board designer is an engineer or technician who specializes in electronics and understands the technology behind PCBs. An associate's degree in drafting and design technology, engineering technology or similar field is required; employers may prefer candidates with a bachelor's degree in electrical or computer engineering.
|Required Education||Associate's degree in drafting, engineering technology or similar field; bachelor's degree in electrical or computer engineering needed for some positions|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||5% for all electrical and electronics drafters*|
|Average Annual Salary (2015)||$62,890 for all electrical and electronics drafters*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
The main role of a printed circuit board designer is to develop and test PCBs. Each design will vary in size and complexity depending on the application. A computer, for example, contains one or more large trays hidden inside. Each tray is a PCB holding a variety of components including chips, micro-controllers, resistors and transistors, which must work together in a logical sequence for the computer to function correctly. A TV remote controller, on the other hand, has a small PCB inside with just a few components mounted on the board.
A PCB designer works in front of a computer in an office or cubicle, either at an engineering firm or a manufacturing facility. The designer's job is to create the board's functionality using specialized software. Each board must be designed to precise specifications, and the designer has to verify that it will work under various conditions.
Printed circuit board designers use computer-aided design (CAD) tools to build circuitry that will be assembled onto these boards and to specify how the connections will be arranged. As reported in 2011 job listings from CareerBuilder.com, some designers develop the digital or analog designs while others work on the routing layout. They make sure that the final draft works as expected and meets industry requirements before a design is sent to the manufacturing facility where the PCB will be fabricated.
Each PCB designer works as part of a team whose members are responsible for different portions of the design. With large, complex boards, several designers can be assigned to each board, each person responsible for a different set of functions. Even though a designer works independently, it's important for the team to communicate through frequent meetings and thorough documentation. Therefore, each designer is expected to communicate ideas verbally and explain the PCB design in detail.
A printed circuit board designer will have at least a 2-year Associate of Science in drafting and design technology, engineering technology or a similar program. According to October 2011 job listings from CareerBuilder.com, a number of employers prefer hiring someone with a 4-year bachelor's degree in either electrical engineering or computer engineering. These programs focus on math, science, engineering and technology. Typical courses include computer-aided design, applied math, electronics principles and circuit design.
Salary and Career Outlook
Electrical and electronics drafters, including electronic drafters who design printed circuit boards, earned an average salary of $62,890 a year in 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS reported that employment for electrical and electronics drafters would grow by 5% over the 2014-2024 decade.
Printed circuit board designers require an associate's degree in this field, though many employers prefer candidates with a bachelor's degree. They must be proficient in CAD tools, math, and circuit design. Job growth for these positions is expected to be about as fast as all jobs.