How to Become a Photonics Engineer: Education Requirements & Degree

Photonics engineers are college-educated professionals who have a bachelor's degree in a relevant discipline, such as photonic science and engineering. Read on to learn what photonics engineers do and the skills needed for this career.

Career Definition of a Photonics Engineer

Anyone who's gone to a self check-out in a store and scanned an item has used equipment that is the product of a photonics engineer's work. They are responsible for developing equipment that uses light to transfer information or perform specific tasks. They work with things such as lasers. While some lasers may be developed for entertainment purposes, photonics engineers may also be involved in producing medical lasers that can be used in surgical procedures. They also work with fiber optics, which can be used to transfer data.

Photonics engineers produce design plans for new products. Once these products are constructed, they evaluate their performance and make any modifications required so that they perform as expected. They may also work on modifications to the design of an existing product. They use computers regularly in their work to produce design plans and analyze data. Another objective of their work is find ways to make the manufacturing of goods used in photonics more cost-efficient.

Educational Requirements Bachelor's degree
Job Skills Computer skills, analytical skills, design skills, mathematical skills, communication skills, problem-solving skills, attention to detail
Median Salary (2017)* $100,000
Job Outlook (2016-2026)** 6% (engineers, all other)

Sources: *; **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

A bachelor's degree is the minimum educational requirement to become a photonics engineer. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that while 54% of photonics engineers have bachelor's degrees, 25% have a master's degree and 13% a doctoral degree. It's common for those preparing for a career in this field to study photonic science and engineering; another degree field that can be pursued is optics and photonics. Photonics engineers may also prepare academically by studying electrical engineering. They should pursue degrees that include courses in mathematics as physics.

Required Skills

Photonics engineers have to perform mathematical calculations and apply mathematical principles to their work so they need to have good mathematical skills. They also need analytical skills for reviewing data. Attention to detail and problem-solving skills are important for photonics engineers because they need to be able to thoroughly review how systems are performing, identify the source of issues and determine how to correct the problem. Since they use computer design software, spreadsheets and scientific software as part of their regular duties, they also need strong computer skills.

Career Outlook and Salary

Photonics engineers are grouped with 'engineers, all other' by the BLS. The BLS projects a 6% growth rate for professionals in this grouping from 2016 to 2026. According to, the 2017 median annual income for photonics engineers was $100,000.

Related Careers

The following list of links connects to articles with information about aerospace engineers, electronic engineers and electrical engineers. These career fields may also appeal to those considering becoming photonics engineers because they are also involved with product design, product assessment and modifying existing products.

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