In this article active non-linear optical effects in semiconductors are reviewed. These processes arise because of the dynamics of excited populations of charge carriers temporarily created in otherwise empty states when a beam of laser radiation is incident on the material. A large number of different effects have been observed in different semiconductor materials recently and the non-linearities cover a wide range of magnitudes both in time-scale and size of non-linearity. The theory and physical concepts relevant to these processes are described and experimental observations using both high power pulsed and low power c.w. lasers are reviewed. Applications in optical bistability, phase conjugation, optical gating and optoelectronic gating are discussed.