Become an Ophthalmic Lab Technician
Sometimes referred to as optical goods workers or manufacturing opticians, ophthalmic lab technicians construct prescription eyeglasses and contact lenses. When making eyeglasses, these professionals cut and shape lenses and then fit them into frames. Techs work behind the scenes in laboratory or office settings and may have little contact with customers. They may spend many hours standing and often wear protective gear when working with certain types of materials.
|Degree Level||No degree is required, but most technicians need a high school diploma; some employers prefer job applicants with postsecondary training|
|Degree Fields||Optical technology, ophthalmic laboratory technology|
|Experience||Entry-level positions require no experience|
|Licensure and Certification||Licensure isn't required; certification with an ophthalmic technician society is available, but optional|
|Key Skills||Critical-thinking skills, good manual dexterity, ability to operate computerized optical equipment, use basic mathematical formulas, and perform detailed work at a close range|
|Salary (2015)||$29,860 per year (Median salary for ophthalmic lab technicians)|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May, 2015)
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Ophthalmic Lab Technician Job Steps
We'll now take a look at the steps needed to pursue a career as an ophthalmic lab technician.
Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma
Employers typically require applicants to have a high school diploma. Courses in science and mathematics can provide knowledge that is applicable to the optical field. Computer courses also provide valuable skills that employers might look for due to the increased use of automated machines in ophthalmic laboratories.
Step 2: Receive On-the-Job Training
Most ophthalmic laboratory technicians are trained on the job. The length of training varies depending on the laboratory, but it may take as long as six months. Technicians usually begin their training by preparing lenses for grinding in a laboratory. As technicians gain experience, they can learn more advanced methods, such as grinding, cutting, and edging lenses to meet the specifications determined by the optometrist or ophthalmologist.
Step 3: Advance Your Career with Further Training
In order to increase their aptitude on the job, individuals might choose to enroll in a certificate program to learn about optical theories, dispensing, and laboratory techniques. A certificate is not usually required for employment, but many programs can broaden a professional's skills and provide training in more advanced optical methods.
- Gain additional mechanical and computer skills. Although some lenses are made by hand, ophthalmic laboratory technicians often use computerized equipment. Learning to use specialized instruments such as lensometers, micrometers, and autocollimators can be beneficial.
- Join a professional organization. Professional organizations like the Contact Lens Society of America and the Optical Laboratories Association can help technicians stay abreast of the latest developments in the field. These professional societies can offer continuing education courses as well as job referral services to get you ahead.
In summary, ophthalmic lab technicians should have a high school diploma and be trained on the job. Certificate programs and professional certification are voluntary and available.