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How to Become an Ophthalmic Lab Technician

Learn how to become an ophthalmic lab technician. Research the job duties, as well as the education and licensing requirements, and find out how to start a career in the optical field. View article »

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  • 0:00 Become an Ophthalmic…
  • 0:34 Career Requirements
  • 0:57 Ophthalmic Lab…

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Video Transcript

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.

Career Requirements

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.

Success Tips:

  • 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.

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