What's a PCB Designer to do?
May 16, 2008 9:32 AM   Subscribe

What's the next step, career-wise, for an experienced PCB Designer in the SF Bay Area who is finding numerous dead-ends on his current job search?

I'm asking on behalf of my husband who is a PCB (printed circuit board) Designer with over 20 years experience. His been doing some freelance work for the past few years but now would like to return to full-time work in an office. However, it seems like the trend is toward out-sourcing this work to overseas and very few jobs are out there (or maybe it's just something about the San Francisco Bay Area job market?) for an in-house designer.

So my question is: Is this still a viable career? If so, where should he be looking for work (he's posted on numerous job boards and spoken with lots of recruiters but is having trouble getting to talk to companies directly)? If it's not a viable career anymore, due to offshoring, what is a good direction to go for a career, given his experience? He's willing to retrain but would love to stay in a similar field.
posted by otherwordlyglow to Work & Money (5 answers total)
I'm in a industry that often hires PCB designers (semiconductor design) and the trend I have seen is that most companies tend to hire PCB contractors, but not full-timers. But there is steady work for the contractors I know.

As to different career options, I'm not really sure. I've seen a lot of trends towards overseas off-shoring in my specialization too (semiconductor chip verification). I like the work, and I think he would be able to make the hop with a small amount of retraining, but probably would have to take a huge pay cut because he'd be starting over.

Also, another career I've considered is software development, but same thing (pay cut, off-shoring) plus they get paid less overall than we do.

What about working for one of the EDA companies? Has he considered that?
posted by j at 9:48 AM on May 16, 2008

I don't think he'd mind being a contractor, in a longer-term contract. he doesn't need the full-timer benefits so much as mine cover him. i think he just wants something with a little more stability and would like to go into an office a few times a week. EDA= Electronic Design Automation? That sounds interesting.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 9:54 AM on May 16, 2008

Fewer companies these days are supporting in-house PCB designers. Many companies are outsourcing but a lot of it is to domestic contract shops. If he does not have the contacts to support himself as a contractor directly, he could work though a contract house. Some of the contract shops treat their designers as sub-contractors and some as direct employees with benefits. It depends on your preference which works better for you.
posted by JackFlash at 10:02 AM on May 16, 2008

Yes, EDA companies are the ones who write the software in which he does his design.
They have lots of different kind of roles, from Applications Engineer (helping customers with the tool) to Development Engineer (writing the actual software).
I'm sure in Bay Area one the big 3 (Mentor Graphics, Synopsys and Cadence) would have something he could do?
posted by j at 10:05 AM on May 16, 2008

Go in to test equipment?
posted by iamabot at 11:58 AM on May 16, 2008

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