Many optical technicians in the field are high school graduates who gain on-the-job training, while some opt to complete certificate programs. These programs generally last between one semester and one year. Optical technology, optical manufacturing and optical systems technology certificate programs teach students to use manual and computerized equipment to cut and polish lenses. 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.
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Optical Technician Certificate
Optical technician certificate programs prepare individuals to create lenses for many different industries. Hands-on laboratory experiences are offered, helping students enhance their skills before entering the workplace. 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 choose 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
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that ophthalmic lab technicians would see an average job growth of 10% from 2014 to 2024. Ophthalmic lab technicians earned a mean annual salary of $32,970 in May 2015, according to the BLS.
Continuing Education Information
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.
Additionally, 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.
An optical technician certificate program combines theoretical and hands-on coursework to train student in creating optical lenses. Graduates may wish to obtain professional certification upon graduation to better their job prospects.