In the next five years, a minimum of 50,000 trained semiconductor engineers will be needed in the United States to meet the overwhelming and rapidly growing demand. Purdue University has answered that call, becoming the first in the country to launch a comprehensive set of innovative, interdisciplinary degrees and credentials in semiconductors and microelectronics.
Semiconductor Degrees Program (SDP), the suite of innovative Purdue degrees and credentials, will educate both graduate and undergraduate students, enabling a quick ramp-up of skilled talent and creating the next-generation of semiconductor workforce to reassert American preeminence in this critical industry.
Unveiled as a plan in September 2021 and officially launched in May 2022, Purdue SDP touts five distinct features that set it apart from other educational programs:
- 6-in-1 content: Chemicals/materials, tools, design, manufacturing, and packaging — all semiconductor industry’s key steps in one interdisciplinary program, plus supply chain management.
- Choice of credentials: Master of Science degree, stackable certificates at the postgraduate level, Bachelor of Science minor/concentration; plus, associate degrees through partner Ivy Tech Community College.
- Flexible modality: Both residential and online programs. First-of-its-kind online offering in the United States dedicated to semiconductors.
- Innovative delivery: Through online learning platform nanoHUB and virtual labs, co-op and internship opportunities, and design-to-fab team projects.
- Broad partnership: Cornerstone with Department of Defense’s SCALE (Scalable Asymmetric Lifecyle Engagement) program, American Semiconductor Academy (ASA), and other Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) Act workforce consortia. SDP is also advised by a leadership board of industry senior executives as listed below.
“The need to restore self-reliance in the semiconductor industry is both an economic priority and a national security imperative,” Purdue President Mitch Daniels said. “We are proud of Dean Chiang and his colleagues for placing Purdue in a position of national leadership in this all-important endeavor.”
Semiconductor chips are the foundation upon which all modern digital economies are built. As electronic devices have become more complex, so have the intricacies of semiconductors across the supply chain. CEOs of leading semiconductor technology companies (see their testimonials below) have stressed the vitality of bolstering semiconductor education and have publicly appealed to university officials across the country to expand the pool of skilled, credentialed talent to meet their need.
In 2021, Congress passed authorization of the CHIPS for America Act, legislation that recognized the critical role the U.S. semiconductor industry plays in America’s future. Urging a rapid appropriation of the CHIPS Act, Mung Chiang, the John A. Edwardson Dean of the College of Engineering and Purdue’s vice president for strategic initiatives, in December 2021 gave testimony titled “Ensuring American Leadership in Semiconductors” during a hearing before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Science, Space and Technology Committee.
Semiconductor company CEOs are praising Purdue Engineering’s bold initiatives and expect the innovative degrees and credentials to make real differences in rapidly building a skilled semiconductor workforce for the nation and the world. Here is a sampling of their comments:
“I am pleased to hear about the new graduate and undergraduate credentials and degrees on microelectronics and semiconductors being launched at Purdue University. These innovative and much-needed initiatives will play a key role in satisfying the voracious demand for skilled talent in the semiconductor industry. I am confident that graduates from this program will be in much demand at Lattice and other companies in our industry.”
– Jim Anderson, CEO, Lattice Semiconductor
“As one of the world’s leading semiconductor manufacturers based in the U.S., GlobalFoundries strongly supports the efforts to grow U.S.-based semiconductor manufacturing. We recognize that to accomplish this goal, the shortage of semiconductor talent in the U.S. is a critical challenge the nation must address. I am pleased and encouraged to see Purdue University step up to this challenge by introducing a comprehensive set of degrees and credentials that will prepare students for exciting careers in semiconductors. We look forward to partnering with Purdue as these programs ramp up to support microelectronics across the U.S.”
– Thomas Caulfield, CEO and President, GlobalFoundries
“Today, semiconductors are more strategically and economically important to the world than ever and we need to significantly scale up the talent pipeline to support the future growth of our industry. Applied Materials is delighted to see Purdue University helping lead the charge to educate the tens of thousands of new engineers our industry needs through new degrees and credentials focused on microelectronics and semiconductors. We look forward to welcoming this next-generation of innovators.”
– Gary Dickerson, President and CEO, Applied Materials
“Every aspect of human existence is becoming digital, and everything digital runs on semiconductors. Increasing access to semiconductor and microelectronics education is essential for building a talented, diverse pipeline of future technologists. Intel plans to invest $100 million over the next decade to build a skilled semiconductor workforce in collaboration with universities, community colleges, and the NSF. I’m excited about Purdue’s educational credentials focused on semiconductors and microelectronics, including the new interdisciplinary master’s degree. With these timely and high-impact initiatives, Purdue is leading the way in bridging the skills gap and addressing the shortage of skilled human talent in the semiconductor industry.”
– Pat Gelsinger, CEO, Intel
“For three and a half decades, Synopsys has provided innovative design automation technology and products that catalyze the potential of semiconductor chips. Today, an exciting new era of microelectronics characterized by both scale and systemic complexity is beginning, and Purdue’s new degrees and credentials will equip students with the practical skills needed in this new age. This initiative leads the way with the kind of comprehensive, innovative program that design automation and semiconductor companies, as well as the electronics ecosystem, critically need.”
– Aart de Geus, Chairman and CEO, Synopsys
“AI is the most impactful technology of our time. The automation of intelligence expands humanity’s potential, enabling once-unimagined advances across science, industry and even the arts. Leadership in this era will require a new generation of engineers and computer scientists. It’s exciting to see Purdue establish this program to prepare students for this challenge, enabling them to help shape fields from autonomous vehicles and robots to healthcare and climate science, and improve our world.”
– Jensen Huang, CEO, NVIDIA
“It is essential for the United States to be a self-sufficient leader in semiconductor technology, which provides the foundation for the modern world and will lead to new innovations in critical industries. Purdue University’s new credentials and degrees in microelectronics and semiconductors will help ensure that we have the large, skilled workforce that is needed to power the nation’s semiconductor future.”
– Arvind Krishna, CEO, IBM
“Semiconductor manufacturing requires a vast array of highly engineered and advanced materials and chemistries. CMC Materials and other leading materials companies look forward to supporting the expansion of semiconductors in the United States and globally. For the bold innovation in critical materials that is needed to advance technology and increase performance, a new generation of semiconductor engineers is critically needed. Purdue’s new degrees and credentials will help students develop the depth and breadth needed for an exciting new era of technology that is just beginning. Kudos to Purdue for stepping up to address this key challenge for the U.S. semiconductor industry. Go Boilers!”
– David Li, CEO, CMC Materials
“TSMC looks forward to being part of the resurgence of semiconductor manufacturing in the U.S. Success in this ambitious and critically important undertaking will require a much-expanded semiconductor talent with the knowledge and skills needed to innovate in a post-Moore’s Law era. Purdue’s innovative and comprehensive new suite of semiconductor degrees and credentials is exactly what is needed – at exactly the right time. We at TSMC look forward to working with Purdue to make this program a model for the nation.”
– Mark Liu, Chairman, TSMC
“Differentiated technologies that address a growing diversity of applications will characterize the next wave of electronics. This next wave will be driven by creative engineers with a broad understanding of microelectronics from materials, devices, and circuits to systems, packaging, and qualification. SEMI is delighted to partner with Purdue as part of the American Semiconductor Academy initiative, and I am pleased to see the university leading the way with the kind of comprehensive and innovative program that the semiconductor industry critically needs.”
– Ajit Manocha, President and CEO, SEMI
“The foundation of U.S. semiconductor leadership is America’s talented technology workforce. It is critical we support and strengthen this workforce by creating, promoting, and investing in policies and programs that enable the training and retention of skilled semiconductor talent. I am thrilled Purdue University is taking a bold step in this mission with the creation of its new credentials and degrees focused on microelectronics and semiconductors at the undergraduate and graduate level. We strongly support these exciting and innovative initiatives.”
– John Neuffer, President and CEO, Semiconductor Industry Association
“Recent events have taught us all how critical chips are and how fragile supply chains can be, but a re-energized U.S. microelectronics landscape will require more than just building more fabs. As Moore’s Law slows, new ways to advance the performance of electronics systems are needed, and this will require a new generation of bold and creative semiconductor engineers to pioneer equally bold and creative semiconductor devices. I applaud Purdue in addressing this challenge with a comprehensive set of new semiconductor degrees and credentials that will help prepare a new generation of semiconductor engineers and address a critical need for Nantero and other companies.”
– Rob Snowberger, CEO, Nantero
“SkyWater sees tremendous value in partnering with Purdue University. They have tremendous faculty, researchers, and facilities around semiconductor creation. Their student body is developing into the workforce of the future, and with the new degree programs dedicated to semiconductors, those are just the graduates that SkyWater needs.”
– Thomas Sonderman, CEO, SkyWater
“We are entering an exciting new era of semiconductors with unprecedented demand driven by the need to execute artificial intelligence (AI) compute workloads. Graphcore is transforming the AI compute domain through innovative technologies that are going to be transformative across all industries and sectors with a real potential for positive societal impact from drug discovery and disaster recovery to decarbonization. Sustaining the rapid pace needed to have such an impact is going to require a big increase in the size of the semiconductor talent pool. I am excited to see Purdue leading the mission to educate the next generation of semiconductor workforce leaders by launching an innovative set of credentials and degrees. I expect this initiative to be a real difference-maker.”
– Nigel Toon, CEO, Graphcore
“Electronics is more and more often the differentiating factor in products, but the cost and complexity of design is exploding. As Efabless works to make custom chip design affordable and accessible to more companies, a critical challenge is the shortage of microelectronic talent. I applaud Purdue University for stepping up to this challenge. Purdue’s new degrees and credentials meet prospective talent where they are with education and opportunity. This will help the next generation of students develop the knowledge, skills, and experience needed for an exciting new era of electronics.”
– Mike Wishart, CEO, Efabless
“We, at SRC, have sponsored more than 16,000 undergraduate and graduate research scholars and have a stated mission of building a diverse, inclusive, and highly trained workforce for tomorrow. Purdue’s new credentials and degrees on microelectronics and semiconductors represent excellent and much-needed initiatives in semiconductor workforce development. We have a strong partnership with Purdue in the microelectronics revolution and look forward to further expanding this partnership to address the enormous possibilities for the industry and our country.”
– Todd R. Younkin, President and CEO, Semiconductor Research Corporation
SEMICONDUCTOR DEGREES LEADERSHIP BOARD (SDLB) inaugural members:
Details of the Semiconductor Degrees Program
With state-of-the-art facilities such as the Birck Nanotechnology Center and nanoHUB and more than 50 world-leading faculty members whose research expertise spans the entire spectrum of semiconductors and microelectronics, Purdue is poised to be the academic leader in semiconductor education, research, and industry partnerships.
Purdue’s College of Engineering is supporting the SDP by investing substantial seed funding for student success in three ways: (a) Providing summer-long Semiconductor Experiences for Undergraduates, which will prepare them for co-ops and internships with semiconductor companies, (b) Supporting chip “tapeouts,” which will enable graduate and undergraduate students to have their chip designs fabricated in a semiconductor foundry, and (c) Funding scholarships for students in the new interdisciplinary MS degree.
The undergraduate experience will begin with a freshman introductory course that features a guarantee of internships or co-op experiences for students who perform well, leading to semiconductor minors and concentrations as options. Graduate students also will have a “project-based” option for the MS degree, or stackable certificates at MS level, that will prepare them to be workforce-ready upon graduation. Students will design, fabricate, and test their own semiconductor chips through innovative partnerships with industry.
Students will learn the manufacturing and design of chips as well as the entire supply chain, which includes the chemical engineering of processing; the mechanical engineering of tool development; thermal management, packaging, material engineering of new materials for chips and packages; and the industrial engineering of supply chain, logistics and manufacturing optimization. Students will have the freedom to customize their own plans of study to focus on specialized sub-fields such as system-on-chip design, heterogeneous integration, and emerging devices, among others.