Optical Lab Technician: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Sep 15, 2019

The career of an optical lab technician requires little formal education, but relies heavily on on-the-job training. Read on to learn about the responsibilities, job duties, and other requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

It is possible to begin a career as an optical lab technician with on-the-job training. Optical lab technicians create prescription eyeglasses and contact lenses, and voluntary certification is an option in this field.

Essential Information

Optical lab technicians, sometimes known as ophthalmic laboratory or medical technicians, create contact lenses and prescription eyeglasses. They work closely with optometrists, opticians, and ophthalmologists. On-the-job training is common in the industry. Many optical lab technicians earn their high school diploma, or GED, and then develop their skills while working in the field. New optical lab technicians start as assistants and work with an experienced technician until they are knowledgeable enough to work by themselves. Voluntary certification is available and recommended for optical lab technicians.

Required Education On-the-job training; voluntary certification is available
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 11% for dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians
Median Salary (2018)* $36,530 for ophthalmic medical technicians

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description

Optical technicians have limited contact with patients and customers while working in clean and well-maintained laboratories. It is a typical 40-hour work week position, although part-time openings are available in certain circumstances. Optical lab technicians must wear safety equipment at all times, including masks, gloves, and goggles. The tools used in this position can be dangerous, so workplace safety is a priority.

Job Duties

After receiving orders from optometrists and opticians, optical lab technicians cut, polish, and grind lenses for prescription glasses, or create prescription contact lenses. In some cases, an optical lab technician may create lenses for products like binoculars, microscopes, or telescopes. This position relies on computer equipment and automated tools to make the lenses. The final product is always examined by an optical lab technician before it is sent off to the customer.

Job Requirements

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), state licensure is not required of optical lab technicians. Though, technicians must possess a good eye for detail and manual dexterity due to the complexity of the work. Excellent computer skills are also necessary for the automated systems used by optical lab technicians.

Additionally, while no college degree is needed, the completion of coursework in drafting, art, science, mathematics, and computer technology can increase career opportunities. The National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education (NCOPE) has accredited six educational programs as of 2015. Programs accredited by NCOPE generally grant a certificate or an associate's degree for aspiring optical lab technicians.

Certification is entirely voluntary for this career, but is highly recommended because it can increase opportunities for employment and career advancement. The American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics, & Pedorthics offers the Registered Orthotic Technician credential. The requirements that must be fulfilled to acquire this designation include the successful completion of an examination, graduation from an accredited degree program and the completion of work experience under a certified technician.

Job Outlook and Salary Info

According to the BLS, the employment of ophthalmic laboratory technicians is expected to increase much faster than the national average through 2028. In May 2018, the BLS reported that professionals in the 90th percentile or higher earned $54,830 or more per year, whereas the bottom 10th percentile earned $24,770 or less per year.

Although it is possible to begin a career as an optical lab technician with a high school diploma and on-the-job training, it is also an option earn an associate's degree or certificate. Completing optional certification may increase job prospects for those preparing to enter this field.

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