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What is VLSI? And what are the job opportunities for a VLSI student?

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 necessary 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 massive 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 right 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 excellent 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 excellent 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 quickly 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. Basic knowledge of digital electronics is also a prerequisite.

It’s also necessary to be well versed in OOPs concepts and CMOS concepts. Some scripting language skill is also essential. 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 straightforward 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 area. However, here are two screenshots that would give you an idea of the average salary for VLSI jobs.

VLSI salaries india
The average salary for VLSI design engineer in India
VLSI salaries US America
The average salary for VLSI design engineers in the USA

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 standard digital circuits
  • How to approach an HDL coding challenge
  • Testbench
  • 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.

44 thoughts on “What is VLSI? And what are the job opportunities for a VLSI student?

  1. Very Impressive information. This will be definitely useful for the job seekers who is really looking for a good platform. it is mentioned clearly about each and every role related to the VLSI.

    1. Thanks Sumedha! Appreciate it 🙂 We will however be updating the post soon to reflect changes in the industry post-covid.

  2. Can you please provide me with the resources(can be paid or free) that I can use and show evidence of. Also, I need a path that I can follow. confused as to where do I start

  3. Hello Sir,
    I am a final year student in mtech in vlsi design course, i want to start my carrer in this industry where should i find myself a suitable job ?

    1. Hi! For starters I would strongly suggest you to use LinkedIn to your advantage. Set up a strong profile with all the skills that you have from the VLSI domain. Set up separate alerts for internships, graduate trainees, and other roles. You will find tutorials on how to set up notifications for these jobs according to your criteria on Youtube. Then, connect with your college’s alumni who are currently working in the VLSI field. LinkedIn has a filter function that allows you to shortlist people according to college, current occupation etc. Then network with them and try to get referred. Good luck!

  4. Hello sir
    I’m very much interested in VLSI and I’m from ECE background sir
    But I don’t have strong basics in VLSI sector
    I’m bit confused what to do

    1. Train yourself! If you just finished graduation, I would suggest pursuing a PG Diploma at CDAC in VLSI. Full disclosure though, it’s my alma mater but I truly believe that they have one of the best curriculums designed to help you succeed. This is assuming that you are from India.

  5. Hi, Is it a good idea to start a career in VLSI after 8 years of gap in USA. I did my masters M.E(Digital Systems) 2012 and couldn’t work after that. Now, I want to. Can you please let me know where and how do I start. Is there any scope after this Gap. I am confused, Will companies hire me after this Gap. If yes, Where and how do I start?

    1. The gap won’t be an issue if you re-train yourself and present evidence of this retraining. For example, take up online courses, brush up your concepts and apply for the roles you are a good fit for. Once you have your shoe in the door, and get to the interview, you can explain the gap. Please let me know if you need any more help.

  6. Hello sir I am glad I find this page. I completed degree in electronics and communication and want to pursue in VLSI (physical design) what is best do masters degree or join course

    1. Hi Sanju! You can never go wrong with a Masters. It depends on your current status though. If you are looking to get trained right away and get a job, go for a PG-Diploma at CDAC. I reiterate, that I may be biased in this recommendation. But you can check out their course structure and see for yourself! Hope that helps. Please let me know if you have any other query that I can help you with.

  7. Hi Umar,

    I have got admitted in Arizona State University (US) for my master’s program starting Jan 2021. I wanted to do my specialization in Electronics and mixed-signal circuit Design. my undergrad is from EEE and i have no prior experience related to VLSI. I am confused on which design to choose (Analog / Digital / Physical ) ?. I like programming and I know python. Can you guide me on what design side to look for and what aspects to improve ( I have 2 months time) before starting my master’s program to really excel in this field?

    1. Hi Prasanth! Congratulations on the admit! ASU is a great Uni! I think there are much better people than me who are more capable of pointing you in the right direction. But if you would like to have a chat, please send me a mail and I will contact you. ([email protected])

  8. Hi sir,
    thanks a lot for the information sir!!
    sir since you are in the industry you must be knowing what role in the VLSI domain is highly in demand in the present market particularly in India , also the one which has the possicility ot trend in near future . can you please elighten on that.
    thanks a lot in advance sir 🙂

    1. Hi Priya! I would suggest you reach out to people working in the domain on LinkedIn for better answers. In my opinion though, post-silicon validation and RTL designa and verification jobs are always a safe bet!

    1. You don’t have to apply! Just begin from the posts in the sidebar. As of now this is only a text based course. We do plan to add videos soon! Hope that helps 🙂

  9. Hello umair Sir,i had completed my degree with Instrumentation engineering,someone suggest me to pursue VLSI course,but I don’t know which course is best for me because ,there are many courses in VLSI and I least known about programming… can u suggest me which online VLSI course can be helpful for me during this lockdown ! I want to make my carrier in this field….

    1. Hi Tejaswini! Most of the tools used in the VLSI industry are called EDA tools. They are used to automate various aspects of the chip design process – from logic design to floorplanning of the chip. These EDA tools are provided by vendors like Synopses, Cadence etc. However, major corporations like Nvidia or AMD might use their own EDA tools. In addition to EDA tools, scripting languages like Python and Perl are also used. I hope that answers your question.

  10. Hii Sir!!
    the knowledge you shared is very much useful
    Sir,I’ve decided to pursue my career in VLSI Could please suggest me online Vlsi courses to undergo during this quaratine time and so that will be useful in Future.

    1. It depends on which domain you would like to pursue. Please share the domain you are interested in and I might be able to give some pointers. Thanks!

    1. Can you tell me where is it that you wish to pursue a Master’s from? If you wish to apply to US/UK/Germany/Australia/NZ, then work experience and projects will definitely help getting an acceptance.

      1. I want to pursue Master’s from US.if i do not have any experience and not done with any projects?

            1. Yeah it would be very helpful if your final year project is related to VLSI. Maybe use an HDL or if you wish to go into Analog design you can look into designing a simple ALU in Cadence

  11. Hello,
    1.To do masters in vlsi,do we need any experience?
    2.To do masters,do we need to submit any projects?what type of projects?

  12. hi,
    I was working as an analog layout engineer from past two years, now i was planning to move for physical design. Can u please tell me the right way how i need to change to physical design.

    1. What kind of experience do you have specifically? To enter physical design in the VLSI domain you need to be good at timing analysis, metastability, hierarchical design. Also, check out our course on analog and digital CMOS design. Concepts related to MOS like channel length, power consumption, etc. are important too.

  13. Hi sir
    The information you gave here is very helpful..I want to enter in VLSI specially for design engineer and I also have some knowledge of verilog.This is my last year for bachelor degree..which part I have to focus more so I enter in this domain.
    Thank you

    1. Hi Hashim
      I would suggest you go for a Master’s before entering the VLSI field. It will greatly enhance your chances of employment in the top firms and also help you climb up the ladder at these institutions quickly. Most importantly it will help you get knowledge that just is not imparted at an undergrad level. However, I would suggest that you choose from either front end design or backend. You said you know Verilog. I would suggest that you get really good at it. Get good at writing testbenches. Look into tools that help you automate testbenches. Get familiar with EDA tools and digital CMOS design concepts like routing and power consumption, delays etc. You can check out our free course on Verilog. We’ll be launching an entire track on VLSI soon. Good luck!

  14. hi sir
    i am planning to do my masters in vlsi. what is best part to do in vlsi and which part is highly paid

    1. Hi! I would suggest that to do a Masters in VLSI from India, you should try getting into the IITs or at the very least, one of the old NITs. That’s the only way you stand a chance to get into companies like Qualcomm and the likes. If you are pursuing from abroad, then make sure that your subjects include all the main modules like CompArch, Verification, Chip design etc.

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