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Patrick Cashman



What is a PCB Designer?


I get many emails and phone calls from recruiters and headhunters.  If you are one of them, read carefully.  If you are not, the following may not be very interesting for you.


PCB Designers do a part of the design and engineering work needed to make a concept or idea of an electronic device into an actual working product.  There are many other people and disciplines involved in this process.  Since we are all working on the same kinds of products and using the same kinds of technology in our work, there is a lot of overlap in the terminology we use.


I mention this because keyword searches of job boards are likely to waste a lot of your time.  They can get you on the right track, but you have to know the specifics of what PCB Design is if you want to find the right people.


I'm not an electrical engineer (EE).  I'm not an electronics technician.  Unless you know the difference, you might think I do either of those jobs if you read my resume.  But that's kind of like saying a botanist and a landscaper do the same thing at work.


You may need to do a little homework to understand the differences.  Especially if you have an interest in building relationships with your clients and with potential candidates.


Electrical Engineers in electronics design companies design circuits.  The product of their work is typically a schematic, which is like an advanced stick-figure drawing of the circuit.  Don't get the wrong idea - that stick figure drawing may look simple, but doing it right involves a lot of work.  Figuring out what components to use in the circuit, and how they all work, and how to hook them up correctly, is a very difficult job which requires a high level of knowledge, skill, and expertise.


Electrical Engineers are referred to by many different titles.  These include hardware designer, design engineer, hardware engineer, hardware design engineer, circuit designer, circuit engineer, circuit design engineer, and electrical engineer (imagine that).


Mechanical engineers (ME) in these companies design the physical hardware that holds the electronics.  Whether that is a metal box like a computer case or a metal and plastic enclosure like a cell phone, it's some kind of physical structure designed to contain and protect the electronics inside. Mechanical engineers are often directly involved in what the shape and size of the PCB will be.  This makes sense, because they are designing some kind of chassis around the PCB.


PCB Designers work with electrical and mechanical engineers.  They take the schematic from the EE and the mechanical information from the ME and combine it to implement the circuit on a piece of physical hardware. In the simplest terms, the PCB designer figures out where to put all the components on the board, and how to create the physical connections between them. The PCB designer knows all about the materials that go into the board, the fabrication and assembly techniques and methods used to construct it, and all the electrical rules needed to correctly implement a functional circuit on the board.


If I've sent you a link to this page in an email, respond with the words "I know you're a PCB designer, not a EE." in your email.



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