Home page

Semiconductor Processing Operators

At a Glance

  • Work in "clean rooms" and wear protective gear
  • Use a variety of small hand tools
  • Have a very low level of social interaction
  • Work at least 40 hours per week
  • Train on the job

Career summary

Semiconductor processing operators make wafers and microchips for cell phones, computers, and other digital devices.

#No alternate titles CJ

Operators work in clean rooms and wear protective gear. Following work orders, they operate and monitor machines that slice silicon crystals into wafers. They inspect wafers for surface defects and load the wafers onto machines that etch circuitry onto them.

Operators use robots to polish, and clean the circuits using chemical solvents or gases.

Operators test circuits and measure them to see that they work properly and meet semiconductor standards. They clean and maintain equipment and work area.

They count, sort, and weigh the products produced. They stamp identification codes into each one. They package and seal them for shipping. Operators also keep records of each step in the process.

Related careers

This career is part of the Manufacturing cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to semiconductor processing operators.

Common work activities

Semiconductor processing operators perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, semiconductor processing operators:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Semiconductor processing operators frequently:

It is important for semiconductor processing operators to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for semiconductor processing operators to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Semiconductor processing operators need to:


Reason and problem solve

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with things

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a semiconductor processing operator, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Some semiconductor processing operators learn their skills through formal training programs. Professional-technical schools and two-year colleges offer programs in electronics or semiconductor technology. You can earn a one-year certificate in semiconductor technology.

Some employers prefer to hire people who have an associate degree in electronics technology. Sometimes you can work part time in a semiconductor processing plant while completing your associate degree. Employers may pay your tuition costs if you earn good grades.

Work experience

Summer work in a semiconductor processing plant is good experience for this occupation. You can learn what kind of education is important for the field.

On-the-job training

Once hired, many operators work as trainees. They learn from experienced workers and graduate to more complicated tasks as their knowledge grows. This type of training may take up to a year to complete.

Many associate degree programs require that you complete an internship to get hands-on experience. Many employers also require that you take 40 hours of training every year to stay up to date with the technology.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from your state's graduation requirements.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Employers require that operators have a high school diploma or equivalent. They also prefer applicants who have taken courses in the physical sciences and math. Employers prefer applicants who have at least one year of production experience. Some employers require technical courses in college. They may also require semiconductor experience for those who are applying for more complex tasks. Some employers require a two-year degree and computer skills.

Employers often hire operators through temporary help agencies. These jobs require a high school diploma or equivalent. Agencies look for people who want to learn new skills on the job and in the classroom. Temporary agencies may sponsor clean room training in cooperation with the employer.

Costs to workers

Some workers may join a professional association and pay annual dues.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


#In Washington, the average entry-level wage for semiconductor processors is $15.82 per hour ($2,742 per month).

#Updated ES wage info 07.16 sd

Semiconductor processors (SOC 51-9141)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $12.54 $14.65 $18.58 $23.44 $28.64
Monthly $2,173 $2,539 $3,220 $4,062 $4,963
Yearly $26,090 $30,470 $38,650 $48,760 $59,570
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $17.00 $19.61 $21.82 $23.96 $26.81
Monthly $2,946 $3,398 $3,781 $4,152 $4,646
Yearly $35,355 $40,782 $45,376 $49,855 $55,762
    Vancouver Hourly $12.92 $14.96 $18.05 $22.77 $28.28
Monthly $2,239 $2,593 $3,128 $3,946 $4,901
Yearly $26,871 $31,116 $37,555 $47,359 $58,835
United States Hourly $12.56 $14.61 $17.92 $22.58 $28.17
Monthly $2,177 $2,532 $3,106 $3,913 $4,882
Yearly $26,130 $30,390 $37,270 $46,960 $58,590

Pay varies with the worker's experience and level of education. It also varies by area of the country and the cost of living in the area.

Full-time, permanent semiconductor processing operators generally receive benefits. Typical benefits include health insurance, paid vacation, and a retirement plan. Temporary and part-time employees rarely receive benefits.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Semiconductor Processors (SOC 51-9141)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 676 1.0% 16.1% 78
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 572 3.0% 15.2% 70
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 13 0.0% 14.6% 1
    King County 86 -8.1% 19.6% 8
United States 27,200 -7.7% 5.2% 2,800

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation will decline. Companies are upgrading many of their manufacturing plants to be more automated, allowing them to sharply increase production with the same number of workers. A number of domestic companies also are building more plants overseas, where costs are lower. In addition, imports of semiconductors from non-US companies are on the rise and should continue to increase throughout the decade.

Competition for jobs is strong. Job prospects will be best for experienced workers with bachelor's degrees. Jobs will only be available in states with existing plants as no new plants are currently being built. Despite the decline, job openings will occur as current workers leave their jobs.

Other resources

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (external link)
900 Seventh Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (external link)
673 South Milpitas Blvd.
Milpitas, CA 95035
Washington Business Week (external link)
PO Box 1170
Renton, WA 98057


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Holland occupational cluster