Last weekend there was an "Ask HN" question about engineering careers , mainly in CA, that reaches 300k+ salary. All the answers were by software engineers and the like, which is expected here at HN.
So, the question is: is there a highly profitable career (150k+) in your region (specially CA) or company for hardware-focused?
Which are these careers and what skills are in demand for them?
To give a more concrete situation (and avoid the XY problem): I feel a bit like the top answer of this thread: I fell I'm wasting my skills and the prime earning ears in a not-so-high-paying industry (scientific facility) in a low-wage region (not EU or USA).
So, I'm planning to both relocate to US or EU, maybe China or Japan; and probably also change market so I can get my career in a better-paying track. I consider myself very broadly skilled, having designed high-performance electronics (board level, never IC level),done FPGA development, including DSP, and programming from embedded up in a few programming languages, even occasionally contributing to some open-source projects. I also oversaw several short-run manufacturing and deployment, which is a skill set by itself.
However, I have some anxiety on which path to follow. Should I focus on:
* learning a particular set of board-level design tools for getting my foot in SV consumer electronics companies?
* try to get a PhD and learn analog IC design?
* using my current experience to get a decent paying job in a FAANG (all of them seem to be doing HW now, except maybe Netflix) and set foot on the door?
As you see, I have some anxiety and maybe people here could help. Maybe my software skills could put me in a better track, but I first want to check if I can make better use of my 10+ hardware-focused career.
 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16811454  https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16811968
My background is slightly higher-level than yours; CPU architecture. I have friends and colleagues with similar backgrounds, and the ones pulling in the most have either pivoted all but entirely to software, or have managed to find hardware roles within the big 4. They do exist. The latter get the best of both worlds, as they pay essentially the same as they do for software roles, and come with the rest of the usual perks. Banks are similar, but my observation which may or may not be completely accurate, is that they are pickier and narrower in scope.
I would be wary about getting a PhD in anything outside of computer science today, though. The roles are out there, but there are far fewer of them.
Google has a whole division now called Google Consumer Hardware, and they’re hiring hardware engineers at the typical Google salaries. Google X, Waymo, and Verily all do plenty of hardware too. And of course Apple does hardware. Tesla hires hardware people too but I haven’t heard the greatest things about their salaries or work life balance.
Banks pay HW engineers a lot. I know a dude at JPMC (nyc) who is clearing 450k doing HW (dc/priv cloud) design. I wouldn't be surprised if folks at somewhere like two sigma make around the same.
You can live well in Germany if you can do a) FPGA+embedded Linux+OpenCV+PCB Design+microprocessors or b) FPGA+RF hardware+RF protocols+PCB Design. I am sure, that your skill set is sufficient. Though the opportunities are rare. And only it works in large enterprises paying according IG Metall tables. If you don’t have family, go to Silicon Valley or Switzerland.
High frequency trading is largely done in hardware these days. It's a constantly moving target, dealing in nanoseconds. It's not my area of expertise, but last I heard, ASICs directly in the switch is where it's at these days.
Compensation-wise, if you have the right skills and can find the right place, it can make software engineering look like bagging groceries. Mostly concentrated around financial centres, so more New York and London, less so CA.
Talking to some people in San Francisco, it seems like there is high demand for electrical engineers with hardware experience at the moment. There's tons of programmers, but few hardware people. Check out Lemnos Labs in SF, they just raised some money and are focused on hardware startups.
I would guess $100k-150k salary depending on the company and your experience.
FAANG+Microsoft and they have a division focused on Hardware operating out of their MV office off of shoreline Blvd next to computer history museum. They hire for board level HW engineers to work on Hololens and their other HW initiatives. Check out their websites for the actual listings
Send an email to the address in my profile. A team in my company is looking for talented hardware engineers and pays above what you want, along with great work/life balance and benefits.
Trading. Check out firms like Optiver, Jump Trading, XR, etc. Big bucks for FPGA devs
IC design can still pay very well in Silicon Valley. So you are on right track with that, if that's what you really enjoy. Also, people who can wear both hardware and software hats are extremely valuable (aka highly paid), but for very specialized jobs. For instance, embedded programming for high-end chips.
I'd bet that within the next 5-10 years, a lot of neural networks are going to shift from running on graphics cards to running on custom hardware. Probably some opportunities there, given the wide applicability.
RF/Microwave hardware design, DSP with FPGA, maybe SDR. Though those all would be specific to the military-industrial complex.
Medical testing lab on a chip hardware manufacturing can be pretty lucrative until the sec shuts you down