Though more engineering students have moved into digital circuitry, a shortage of analog engineers has persisted over the past several years. And while the sluggish economy has helped to relieve that shortage, employers said they can now be more choosy about analog specialists.
"There has definitely been a slowdown in hiring," said Dianna Wilusz, director of global hiring at National Semiconductor Corp., based in Santa Clara, Calif. "Our managers can be much more selective now. There are a lot more candidates out there this year than during last year's hiring frenzy."
While few areas within the electronics industry have escaped the effects of the downturn, some companies say that at least things aren't getting any worse.
"We're hiring at about the same levels as we were a couple of months ago," said a spokeswoman for Analog Devices Inc. in Norwood, Mass. While noting that Analog Devices has openings in many areas, there is one segment that's got more openings than most others.
"We're always looking for analog IC engineers," the spokeswoman said. "Right now we're proactively searching for people who can design high-speed converters. There are a lot of applications for high-speed converters in telecom and consumer electronics, especially in cameras and DVD drives."
At National Semiconductor, the job openings are a bit broader. Wilusz cited information appliances, displays and power management as areas where analog engineers are in particular demand. National is seeking both senior engineers and new college graduates.
"On our college recruiting front, we continue to be aggressive," Wilusz said. "When it comes to new design engineers coming out of school, we're very proactive.
"We see college kids as representing a longer-term future for our organization," Wilusz said. "From the resource-planning side, these people will be key to our organization five years out."
That's about the period that most college graduates expect to stay on their first job, according to a recent survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (Bethlehem, Pa.). Engineering students expect to stay 5.9 years, the highest of any major. Overall, across all majors, 89.5 percent of those surveyed expected to work for their first employer for five years or less.
While National Semiconductor is doing lots of hiring on campuses, new-graduate hiring still doesn't match the hiring of experienced professionals.
"When we look at new positions, we're hiring about equal numbers of college graduates and professionals," Wilusz said. "That doesn't take into account replacement hiring when people leave. Those individuals are typically replaced by experienced professionals, not new graduates."
While the number of available professionals has increased during the slowdown, Wilusz added that it's still competitive when it comes to well-established workers.
"When you look at engineers who are still with a given organization in more senior positions, it's still difficult to get them to move," Wilusz said.