My experience is of course anecdotal, but my company in Silicon Valley has more board level analog work than we have the manpower to accomplish and so I have been interviewing candidates all week. From what I can tell, there are still plenty of people that want to work on the analog signal chain and not code or tape-out in a cubicle all day. That said, our hire rate is farily low due to not that many people having significant depths of comparable experience so maybe we are a victim of the too few situation.
Every company I worked at skimped on their dedicated RF engineers and most were managed by software and digital groups.
For the past 26 years I have constantly been fighting with a 20 to 1 ratio of digital and power supply engineers to 1 single RF engineer, at some large companies that I worked at we had 5 RF ingineers and > 100 digital and 15 or 20 power supply engineers combined.
One big issue is that I am constantly fighting with is training the digital and low frequency analog guys that they need to dampen their high speed signals, that they need to put a shields over their Clock oscillators, over their FPGA's and they need to absolutely shield and properly filter their power supplies like they are a transmitter.
I can't count the number of VHF, UHF, GPS, XM weather radio receivers that I have designed with a ridiculously low noise figure only to have it degraded by up to 30 db simply because the digital/low freq anaolog guys knew nothing about proper EMI/RFI reduction.
The RF group is constantly left out of the design phase until the very end of the cycle simply because the Digital/analog low freq group is afraid to include us in at the very beginning because as one digital engineer put it they were afraid of getting radiated by the RF group so they stayed away from us until absolutely needed at which time the product failed to pass FCC certification and needed some drastic black magic applied.
Lately I spend 75 % of my time not designing RF products but instead resolving RFI/EMI issues traced back to another manufacturers poorly designed LED lighting systems knocking out my sensitive VHF Comm, Nav and GPS systems in my aviation radios.
I agree, theres a big difference between the analog design that I do (lower frequency PCB level design) and high frequency RF IC design. I think the shortages you mentioned were mostly in the IC design area...
I've transitioned from being mostly digital to doing more analog (at high enough speeds digatal becomes analog) but I think that it might be more difficult to transition from digital to analog in the IC design arena. I had a couple analog courses that included some IC design examples but I wasn't that interested in becoming an IC designer. I'd much rather use the ICs that someone else creates....
It seems when I look on the internet at various job sites, there are tons of electrical engineering opportunities for me. Alas the deeper I dig, these opportunities seem to never get filled and are recycled until the support manufacturing infrastructure can really put these machinations into reality. I had a phone interview recently with General Electric in a medical devices position and they cancelled the position...fairly frustrating...being a tau beta pi engineering honor society member...I am simply waiting for some precision engienering opportunity to come into my neck of the woods locale...
@dougwithau: I'm still and fairly new grad with bachelors degree in EE and have been working in the Signal Integrity field of the wafer test industry for 5 years now. I'm looking to switch to RF/microwave design.
However, after interviewing with many companies in the CA bay area most tell me that I don't have enough experience (even to be a application engineer). It seems to me that most companies aren't willing to train into design positions because of the rapid rate of development and I'm finding it hard to bridge that gap.
What do you recommend is the best path toward becoming a mixed-signal or RF design engineer in this market: to continue searching for a company that would provide apprenticeship or instead obtain a master's degree at a recognized university to facilitate experience/networking opportunities?
The article is vague about the exact skill needed.
What I see in job postings are companies asking for one person who can do everything. All they need is someone who is half unicorn, half dragon with feathers... oh, and has good people skills.
Does the "analog engineer" command a premium salary? No, because that is based on titles and slots and a grid system developed in 1983. So, to the company I say, you get what you pay for. Be cheap and you'll get cheap results.
Don't worry. If you are reading this because you are an analog designer, the whole article screams opportunity.
Become a consultant and charge your former employers according to the value you provide, not the HR grid.
Teach classes online or in person.
Do your own projects.
Start the company where you want to work.
Life is good, the demand is strong and we are smart enough to take advantage.
IBM told me designs of RF front ends are getting increasingly complex thanks to the number of bands 4G LTE and WiFi keep adding on. Just wait until 5G and millimeter wave services. We definitely need those analog engineers!
@cd2012 Thanks for pointing out the salary issue--so I think this raises the question of how engineers (and others in a huge swath of professions) can expand their skill set as they progress in their career without having to go back to Square 1. I saw in the publishing industry some people who were completely stuck in print - the companies still needed people to put out the print magazine, while everyone else was moving onto digital, incuding new hires.
@antedeluvian Thanks for your response. I think one of the big challenges in clustering all analog engineers into one big group as the focus and knowledge is incredibly varied. For example., while some people believe that the job market for basic circuit designers has shrunk considereably there is huge demand for analog engineers who know power. My next article should look not just at the field overall, but what skill sets are actually in demand (or not).
NASA's Orion Flight Software Production Systems Manager Darrel G. Raines joins Planet Analog Editor Steve Taranovich and Embedded.com Editor Max Maxfield to talk about embedded flight software used in Orion Spacecraft, part of NASA's Mars mission. Live radio show and live chat. Get your questions ready.
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