A PCB designer is primarily in charge of designing and developing Printed Circuit Boards (PCB). They use computer software programs to create layouts and 3D models of circuit boards and also make sure the board is functional by using specialized software. What does a PCB designer do?
What is a PCB?
A printed circuit board, or PCB, is the foundational building block of most electronic devices and is essentially a board that connects electric components. These boards are used to mechanically support and electrically connect electronic components and are most commonly made out of fiberglass or composite epoxy.
For more simple electronics, PCBs are composed of only a single layer whereas for complex electronics, these boards are sometimes made up of almost 100 layers.
Apart from being used in consumer electronics and computers, different types of PCBs are used in a variety of other industries and fields, some of which include:
- Medical industry
- Automotive and aerospace industries
Responsibilities of a PCB designer
As mentioned above, a PCB designer is primarily responsible for designing and developing Printed Circuit Boards. They prepare documents for PCB assembly, schematics and fabrications using CAD software and also design layouts to develop high-speed and reliable circuits.
While some PCB designers are in charge of developing the digital or analog designs, others are responsible for working on the routing layout.
PCB designers analyze and resolve any design-related issues, provide support to PCB engineering and manufacturing teams, and provide any revisions based on the specifications of customers and engineers.
These designers review and recommend improvements, if needed, to existing designs and assist various teams in preparing test procedures to verify PCB functions.
What are the responsibilities of a PCB designer?
- Design and develop Printed Circuit Boards
- Prepare documents for PCB assembly, schematics and fabrications using CAD software
- Design layouts to develop high-speed and reliable circuits
- Develop digital or analog designs
- Work on the routing layout
- Analyze and resolve any design-related issue
- Provide support to PCB engineering and manufacturing teams
- Provide revisions based on the specifications of customers and engineers
- Review and recommend improvements to existing designs
- Assist teams in preparing test procedures to verify PCB functions
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Skills of a PCB designer
A PCB designer is first and foremost skilled in all things related to electronics. Since PCB is very central to any electronics design, these designers need to have a good understanding of electronic components and a strong knowledge of all the things that make up a PCB.
They have experience working with CAD software and have knowledge of RF and analog layouts. They also have a very clear understanding of PCB layer stack up and are aware of the common design rules related to PCB such as: noise reduction, EMI/EMC considerations, considerations for thermal integrity etc.
These designers have experience working and designing engineering drawings, are skilled in maintaining and creating libraries, and are adept in MS Office suite, BOM, and Configuration Management.
Most designers have a continuous learning drive, strong communication skills and the ability to utilise the right tools at the right time.
What are PCB designers skilled at?
- Good understanding of electronic components
- Strong knowledge of PCBs
- Experience working with CAD software such as AutoCAD, OrCAD or PADS
- Knowledge of RF and analog layouts
- Clear understanding of PCB layer stack up
- Knowledge of common PCB design rules
- Experience working with and designing engineering drawings
- Ability to maintain and create libraries
- Proficient in MS Office suite
- Proficient in BOM
- Experience in Configuration Management
- Strong learning drive
- Strong communication skills
- Ability to utilise the right tools at the right time
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Working as a PCB designer requires you to have at least a Bachelor’s degree. This could either be in Electrical Engineering or Computer Engineering.
Some designers also choose to obtain a degree or certification in an area that includes drafting, computer-aided design, electronic design, etc. You can find some options for these down below:
- AutoCAD 2021 Complete Beginners Course
- Circuit Design, Simulation and PCB Fabrication Bundle
- IPC Designer Certification Program
- Crash Course Electronics and PCB Design
The annual salary of PCB designers depends largely on factors such as industry, position and level of skills. For designers who are just starting out, the salary is $46,000 whereas for senior designers, the salary is $108,000 per year. The average salary for PCB designers is $77,000.
In the UK, the salary range is £26,000- £72,000 whereas in Germany, the salary range is €31,900- €53,700.
What is the salary of a PCB designer?
How much do freelance PCB designers earn?
The freelancermap rate index in October 2021 shows an average hourly rate of $80 amongst automotive engineers. Working this rate out to an 8-hour day, the daily average is around $640.