Getting a Job in FPGA
FPGA engineers like solving tough problems and have a passion for using the latest technology to create new products. Here’s some information about the FPGA market and advice on entering a career working with FPGAs.
FPGA Engineers are in Demand
The FPGA market was valued at $9 billion USD in 2019 and is projected grow to $15 billion by 2027. This considerable growth will be based on many factors including:
- Lower engineering costs and reduced time to market when compared with ASICs
- Expanding autonomous vehicle market
- Increased demand for AI and IoT technology
- Developments in 5G technology
This expanding market will drive an increased need for qualified FPGA engineers. And because FPGAs are used in many market segments and industries, the demand for talented engineers will comes from many areas including:
- Consumer products
- Military and Aerospace
- Data Processing
FPGAs are used in many different types of products in consumer, automotive, and industrial applications. Specific applications include signal processing, biomedical instrumentation, device controllers, machine vision systems, test and measurement equipment, software-defined radio, random logic, medical imaging, cryptography, computer hardware emulation, voice recognition, and more. Consumer electronics applications include smartphones, autonomous vehicles, displays, cameras, video and image processing, and security systems. FPGAs are also used for many commercial applications, like in servers, and various markets, including aerospace and defense, medical electronics, and distributed monetary systems.
What Do FPGA Engineers Need to Know?
- Design Tools – FPGA design engineers need to have a good understanding of the common industry software and design tools. Programs like Matlab, Simulink, Octave, Verdi, and others are used to create digital prototypes and to virtually simulate applications.
- Process – Designers must have the ability to work within a process and closely with a team of engineers. Rather than being solely focused on their part of the project, the FPGA designer needs to have a good understanding for how their FPGA configuration fits into the overall solution. Good communication skills are critical. FPGA design engineers should have a strong understanding of engineering and a strong understanding of how projects are conceptualized from the beginning stages through the fulfilment and use by the customer.
- Creativity – FPGA design engineers need to be able to find creative solutions. Effective designers utilize their experience and creativity to evolve and attempt new things. Their inventiveness leads to finding new solutions to meet project requirements.
- Scripting and Coding – FPGA design engineer careers require strong programming skills. Designers should have experience with languages such as Python. They will also need to use a coding language like Verilog or VHDL. Design engineers often work very close with other members of a software teams and need to understand multiple languages so they can collaborate and work closely within a team.
- Eye for Detail – An FPGA can be a part of a very sophisticated system with many pieces. Small initial mistakes can lead to big problems and put an entire project at risk. A designer must be able to work through different scenarios and have a keen attention to details throughout the development process.
- Problem Solver – FPGA design engineers are problem solvers. They’re required to create solutions while working with limitations like budgets, regulations, customer specifications, and more. An FPGA system is like a jigsaw puzzle and problem-solving skills can be equally important as technical knowledge.
Getting Hired as an FPGA Engineer
Job seekers should be specific with the technologies they’ve worked with and include keywords in a resume- things like Vivado, Verilog, VHDL, Xilinx, MATLAB, Python, USB, SoC, PCIe, etc. Another great way to stand out is to post previous work and personal projects on community forums. These posts show a passion for solving problems and creating new solutions. Opportunities in government and defense work are extensive. Defense contractors offer many opportunities to new graduates. Job seekers should be prepared to need a security clearance, and what that involves.
According to salary.com, the salary range for an FPGA engineer in the United States is $94,630 to $143,449, with an average base salary of $115,426.
The FPGA market is expanding. Careers in FPGA design are extensive and available in many industries and business sectors. Successful engineers are always learning and improving their skills, particularly as technology and the industry changes.