Optical Coating Engineer: Job Description and Requirements

Sep 29, 2019

An optical coating engineer manipulates various surfaces to determine its levels of reflection and transmission. A bachelor's degree is the minimal requirement for this career, and majors include physics and mechanical or electrical engineering. These engineers must be comfortable working with others to develop new design strategies, and some employers require work experience in the field.

Essential Information

Optical coating engineers implement design strategies, manage machinery and work with other employees to meet client needs for lenses, mirrors and other optical devices. They must have at least a bachelor's degree, strong communication skills and an understanding of the science used in depositing coatings on optical surfaces.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 8% for industrial engineers*
Median Annual Salary (2019) $88,008 for optical engineers**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **

Job Description

Optical coating is the process of depositing thin layers of material onto a mirror, lens or similar surface. These coatings can increase or decrease reflection and change transmission properties. Optical coating engineers work with technicians and other engineers to develop, design, test and manufacture optical components with an eye toward increasing production and maintaining low costs. They participate in and supervise all aspects of coating, including design, process development and documentation, analysis, cleaning and inspection.

Engineers in optical coating are responsible for oversight of equipment usage and hands-on work on preventative maintenance, repairs and improvements to coating machinery. These professionals also provide guidance to management staff and operators by ensuring the business meets continuity, testing and financial estimates. They work to guarantee that a customer's requests can be produced and also might assist in training employees.


Optical coating engineers must possess a bachelor's degree or higher, according to job postings available in 2012. A major in physics or another science, electrical engineering or mechanical engineering is appropriate for the job. Coursework for physics majors includes calculus, chemistry and general, modern and thermal physics. Engineering majors take classes in thermal science, mechanics, manufacturing, calculus and engineering. Candidates also might benefit from obtaining a master's degree.

Optical coatings engineers must have a strong understanding of the processes and materials involved in their work. Hands-on experience with thin films as well as optical, chemical and mechanical processes is necessary. Some employers require direct experience in the field of optical coating.

Communication, word processing and mechanical skills are necessary for this career. Optical coating engineers work with scientists, technicians and consumers and must be able to convey ideas and troubleshoot problems. Job applicants might need specific system and machinery knowledge.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't collect information about optical coatings engineers specifically; however, it does collect information about the closely-related occupation of industrial engineer. From 2018-2028, industrial engineers can expect employment growth of 8%, a faster than average rate, per the BLS (

According to salary statistics reported by in September 2019, optical coatings engineers earned a median annual salary of $88,008. Those who earned pay within the 10th-90th percentiles earned from $62,000-$134,000, including salaries, bonuses and profit sharing.

In addition to designing new surfaces, optical coating engineers are responsible for maintaining and repairing the machines and equipment used in coating procedures. Excellent communication skills are essential in this field, as these engineers work with other scientists and technicians, as well as with machine operators and management staff. Industrial engineers, a related occupation to optical coating engineers, can expect an increase faster than average job opportunities through 2028.

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