What is the difference between chip architecture, design and design verification?

Thread Starter

Fenrises

Joined Mar 29, 2022
1
To start, let me mention that I'm currently in my 4th semester. I've been applying for a student job and it seems that these 3 are the standard around here. I'm more or less aware of what the actual job is but I'm having a difficult time understanding which position is more "lucrative/prestigious" than the other.
A few companies gave me the option to choose between these positions and I honestly have no clue what I should prefer.
 

dl324

Joined Mar 30, 2015
14,467
Welcome to AAC!

Architecture involves the higher level design considerations: how many levels of cache memory and how much, pipeline depth, instruction support, concurrency, out of order/in order, number of registers, etc.

Design is the implementing of those functions.

Verification has several aspects. Layout verification would check compliance with design rules, connectivity verification would check connectivity against the schematic, performance verification would verify that the device would meet speed requirements (taking into consideration process variation), reliability verification would check for electromigration and self-heat issues (usually at a frequency far in excess of what the products will be marketed at).

In your 4th semester, I don't see how you'd have enough education to assist in any of those disciplines. Most interns are in their last year of their degree program. Some companies/positions only accept students who already have an undergraduate degree.

Architects are fewer in number than design engineers and might be considered more prestigious, but it depends on what your passion is. Some engineers prefer to be closer to the process/device performance end of things.
 

tindel

Joined Sep 16, 2012
876
If you know the functions of the positions but don’t know what you want to do, then I’d take the opportunity to do one of them to get a feel for it, and then try the other roles while attending grad school if you can.

That said, when I was at ADI the designers were king. Some of them were also self-absorbed assholes. Not to mention that the company culture sucked. I left after two short years. It was a shame because the money was pretty good, and I wanted to love the place.

Just pointing this out because there’s more to a company than personal prestige. Also prestige is earned from your peers not your title.

As an intern don’t expect anything you ‘design’ to make it to final tapeout
 
Last edited:

drjohsmith

Joined Dec 13, 2021
397
If you know the functions of the positions but don’t know what you want to do, then I’d take the opportunity to do one of them to get a feel for it, and then try the other roles while attending grad school if you can.

That said, when I was at ADI the designers were king. Some of them were also self-absorbed assholes. Not to mention that the company culture sucked. I left after two short years. It was a shame because the money was pretty good, and I wanted to love the place.

Just pointing this out because there’s more to a company than personal prestige. Also prestige is earned from your peers not your title.

As an intern don’t expect anything you ‘design’ to make it to final tapeout
verification sucks
you have to be a certain kind of person to love that
its all about trying to brake some one else's design, lots of documentation / procedures
then the politics of the designer saying your testing wrong, and snr management saying not to find to many bugs.

Desing engineer,
takes some ones "mad idea" and makes it into a working system
needs / gains lots of knowledge about the tools / silicon
and learns a lot of new stuff all the time

System designer
comes up with the "mad ideas"
often the most clever of people,
very specialised ,
so they might know lots about say 5G mobile
but not say video,
so unlike the other two,
skills are not so transferable unless lots of luck
 

tindel

Joined Sep 16, 2012
876
The students I work with - I tell them that they will usually be a test/verification engineer or systems engineer when they graduate - they tell me they won't - that they'll be a design engineer. Then they get a test or systems job. I would highly suggest against a systems job out of college if you want to remain technical (great path if you want to bee line to management though). It's incredibly rare to start in design - if you do, you're in the 1% (Usually top of the class MSEE or PhD from a good school - think MIT), the company is desperate to fill those roles and needs a warm body trying to get it done, or you’re at a startup.

I'd agree that verification sucks - but if you want to be the best engineer you can be then verification/test is where you should start. Do that for 2-5 years - enough to start knowing what the good career verification engineers are doing, then transfer to design for 5-10 years so you are skilled, and then move to systems - you’ll gain the big picture quickly. After 2-5 of systems, you’ll start having your own ideas that the company will likely ignore. That’s when it’s time to start your own business.

Note that test and verification are slightly different. Test gets the chips ready for mass production while verification makes sure the chip does what they think it should do. These can have different meanings at different companies too. Sometimes the roles are combined.
 
Top