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Photonics Technician: Education, Schools & Certification

In order to prepare for a career as a photonics technician it's necessary to earn a postsecondary certificate or associate's degree. Read on to learn about the program options available in photonics technology.

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Overview of Programs for Photonics Technicians

Photonics technicians are professionals who are trained to work with things that use photons. The fiber optic materials, mirrors, lasers and other types of equipment they work with can be used to transfer data or to perform medical procedures. Photonics technicians are typically required to complete a certificate or associate's degree program in photonics to prepare to enter this career field. There are a number of institutions throughout the United States that offer certificates and associate's degrees in photonics. These programs prepare graduates to enter a wide range of industries because photonics technology is in demand in fields as varied as communications and healthcare.

Admission Requirements for Photonics Programs

The standard requirement for admittance into certificate and associate's degree programs in photonics is to have a high school diploma or GED. Some colleges guarantee acceptance of students who have a high school diploma or equivalent who also have standardized test scores or test waivers. Within each program there may be courses that have their own prerequisites and students may find that they need to take additional courses to qualify for entrance into those specific classes. These programs require a high level of mathematical skills so those considering this career field should take courses in algebra and geometry.

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Photonics Program Coursework

The courses offered in photonics programs can vary widely. This depends, in part, on whether a certificate or an associate's degree is being pursued. Associate's degree programs may incorporate mathematical and engineering courses as part of their program in addition to specific courses about photonics and photonics principles. Certificate programs typically focus exclusively on photonics courses.

Introductory Course

Many schools offer a general course that provides an overview of optics. This course is designed to introduce students to different types of equipment and different applications for this equipment. Other programs break up different fields of photonics studies and offer introductory courses in photonics and lasers as well as robotics. These courses can require making complex calculations so advanced math skills may be required or recommended.

Wave Optics

Photons are particles of light and courses in wave optics focus on how these particles can be altered physically by things like polarization. These are factors that can affect how to make accurate calculations. Courses look at practical applications of photonics and prepare students to use laboratory equipment.

Digital Circuitry

Courses in digital circuitry are designed to help students understand how digital circuits work. Introductory courses provide a general overview of basic functions as well as how to identify problems with how the circuits are functioning. Some courses emphasize computer skills and prepare students to use computer programs to analyze data. This course area also emphasizes applying mathematical principles used to gather and assess data.

Practical Applications of Photonics Technology/Laboratory Course

This is a class designed to provide hands-on experience to students. They learn to drill and cut with lasers. They also learn about ways that photonics technology is used in fields such as forensic science. This course is specifically designed to ensure students know how to use the tools related to photonics technology prior to graduation.

Computer-Aided Design Software

The ability to use computer-aided design software is crucial for photonics technicians. Some programs offer specific courses in computer design software, which teaches students how to use this software to produce drawings of objects. Students will acquire the drafting skills needed to make technical images when they enter the workforce. They will also understand how to interpret the data represented in these images when they're working on product designs.

How to Choose a Photonics Technician Program

There are a number of factors to consider when choosing a program to prepare for a career as a photonics technician. Length of program is one factor. Certificate programs tend to last one year or less and are therefore less expensive than associate's degree programs. Some programs are available primarily through online studies, which may be a factor for those who are employed or unable to relocate. Programs may also offer a slightly different emphasis and prospective students may want to carefully consider their career goals to determine which program offers courses that are tailored to their specific area of interest.

Career Options with a Photonics Certificate or Associate's Degree

It's common for photonics technicians to work in manufacturing and apply their skills to product development; they may work on creating things like medical lasers that can be used for surgical procedures or scanners that can transmit data. They use computers to produce design materials and they also use computers to gather and review data related to the products they're working on. They may also work hands-on with lasers and other forms of technology, check to ensure that they're working properly and make technical adjustments to improve performance when required. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that as of 2016, photonics technicians were categorized with 'engineering technicians, all other' and were expected to see a 5% rate of job growth from 2016 to 2026. In 2017, Glassdoor reported that the average annual income for photonics technicians was $37,739. Career options for those with an education in photonics include:

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