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Schools with Optical Technology Programs: How to Choose

Certificate and associate's degree programs are available in optical technology and precision optics through community colleges, technical schools and universities.

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There are a number of programs available in optical technology, usually at the certificate or associate's level, that will prepare students for a variety of careers in the field.

10 Schools with Optical Technology Programs

The following schools and colleges offer programs in optical technology to prepare students for the work force:

College/University Location Institution Type Degree Types Tuition & Fees (2015-2016)*
Monroe Community College Rochester, NY 2-year, Public Associate's $4,554 (in-state), $8,354 (out-of-state)
Raritan Valley Community College Branchburg, NY 2-year, Public Certificate, Associate's $4,048 (in-district), $4,768 (in-state), $4,768 (out-of-state)
Portland Community College Portland, OR 2-year, Public Associate's $3,766 (in-state), $8,374 (out-of-state)
Cuyahoga Community College Cleveland, OH 2-year, Public Associate's $3,136 (in-district), $3,953 (in-state), $7,648 (out-of-state)
Indian Hills Community College Ottumwa, IO 2-year, Public Associate's $3,840 (in-state), $5,760 (out-of-state)
American Career College Los Angeles, CA 2-year, Private Certificate $16,950
New York City College of Technology Brooklyn, NY 4-year, Public Associate's $6,669 (in-state), $13,779 (out-of-state)
University of California - Irvine Irvine, CA 4-year, Public Certificate $13,252 (in-state), $37,960 (out-of-state)
Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute Albuquerque, NM 2-year, Public Certificate, Associate's $1,095

Sources: *School websites

How to Select an Optical Technology School

Students interested in working in optical technology may become ophthalmic laboratory technicians if they want to manufacture eyeglasses.Consider the following when looking for optical technology schools:

  • Those who are interested in designing lenses for microscopes can complete precision optical programs, while those interested in designing lenses for glasses might consider ophthalmic laboratory technician programs.
  • Students should check a school's curriculum to be sure it offers the focus they desire.
  • Beyond choosing a type of optical technology, students may want to consider a school's facilities and opportunities for practical experience as hands-on training may enhance career prospects.
  • The Commission on Opticianry Accreditation (COA) accredits both certificate and associate's degree programs in ophthalmic laboratory technology; accreditation can help graduates meet certification and licensing requirements.

Precision Optics Certificate Programs

Professionals already working in the optical industry who need further education in the development of lens or safety standards might consider certificate programs. These programs may offer different concentrations; students may want to choose technical options such as manufacturing, testing or electro-optics. Certificate programs can be completed in one semester.

Precision Optics Associate's Degree Programs

These 2-year programs might include sequences in optical processes or technical electronics. Laser usage should be a significant part of the curriculum because of lasers' prevalence in the precision optics field. Students may be required to complete a senior project and courses typically include fiber optics, optical electronics, and laser applications.

Ophthalmic Laboratory Technician Certificate Programs

These certificate programs require as few as 15 credits for completion although programs can last up to a year. After earning the certificate from a short-term program, students may complete an internship and be eligible for state licensing exams. Some programs will overlap with patient care duties; however, the focus is on laboratory technology. In addition to clinical or laboratory training, courses in an ophthalmic laboratory technology program might include ophthalmic materials, ocular pharmacology, contact lens fitting.

Ophthalmic Laboratory Technician Associate's Degree Programs

While many 2-year programs will include dispensing and other non-laboratory related techniques, the focus of the curriculum is on lens design principles, such as finishing and surfacing. There may also be additional science requirements like anatomy and structure of the eye. Clinical and laboratory training is included as part of the curriculum. These programs may be listed as vision care technology.

In summary, students can pursue either certificates or associate's degrees in a variety of optical-related technology fields, which will prepare students for life after school in the workplace.

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