Optical Technician Training and Certification Program Info

Learn about certificate programs that are designed to prepare aspiring optical technicians. Check out the prerequisites as well as the certification options, and see sample coursework. Explore popular careers and employment outlook statistics for ophthalmic lab technicians.

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Essential Information

Optical technicians, including optical laboratory technicians, optical mechanics and manufacturing opticians, are responsible for creating lenses for use in instruments, such as telescopes, binoculars and cameras. Optical technicians, like ophthalmic technicians, may also make lenses used for vision correction. Many professionals in the field are high school graduates who gain on-the-job training, while some opt to complete certificate programs.

Optical technology, optical manufacturing and optical systems technology certificate programs teach students to use manual and computerized equipment to cut and polish lenses. Instruction for reading and understanding engineering specifications and eye-doctor provided prescriptions are included in the curriculum. Programs can be found at community and technical colleges and include classroom lectures and hands-on laboratory experiences. The Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology awards voluntary certifications to qualified graduates.

Education Prerequisites

In addition to having a high school diploma or GED, students who are interested in enrolling in an optical technician certificate program should have strong verbal communications and mathematics skills. Optical laboratory technicians use their hands and eyes to operate precision machinery and thus must have good manual dexterity and vision.

Program Coursework

The courses included in an optical technician certificate program may take one semester to one year to complete. Specific topics covered in classroom and laboratory courses include:

  • Optical and ophthalmic materials
  • Dimensional measuring for optics
  • Lens materials and design
  • Spectacle fabrication
  • Optical instrumentation and testing

Popular Career Options

Optical technicians generally work in laboratories manufacturing lenses for eyeglasses and optical instruments. After learning all aspects of lens making, an optical technician may chose to specialize in one part of the manufacturing process, such as lens grinding, or in crafting one type of lens, such as eyeglass lenses. Job titles for specialists include:

  • Hand lens polisher
  • Optical assembly technician
  • Optical goods drill operator
  • Ophthalmic laboratory technician
  • Prism measurer
  • Precision-lens grinder
  • Contact lens lathe operator

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that ophthalmic lab technicians would see a faster than average job growth of 13% from 2010-2020. Ophthalmic lab techs earned a mean annual wage of $29,850 in May 2012, stated the BLS.

Continuing Education Options

Some employers may require optical technicians to complete an apprenticeship before beginning work. The Association of Technical Personnel in Ophthalmology offers educational resources and continuing education opportunities for professionals in the field.

Students who want to continue training to work with precision optics may earn an Associate in Applied Science in Applied Optical Technology or an Associate of Applied Science in Optical Systems Technology. In some cases, certificate credits can be applied toward the AAS degree. These 2-year degree programs include physics, math and engineering courses.

Certification

Students who go on to become ophthalmic technicians can seek professional certifications through the Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology. Candidates must have completed an educational program that was approved by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Professionals (CAAHEP), and they should have accumulated one year of work experience. It is necessary to pass a multiple-choice skills evaluation examination.

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