Ophthalmic laboratory technicians make prescription lenses. On-the-job training is the minimum requirement for entry-level positions, but some degree programs are available as well. Typically, increased education leads to better job prospects.
Ophthalmic laboratory technicians, sometimes referred to as optical goods workers or optical mechanics, produce prescription glasses and lenses. Common duties include making contact lenses, shaping prescription lenses and maintaining lab equipment. This type of work may be learned on the job, but formal training is also available.
|Required Education||None mandatory, on-the-job training is provided; certificates and associate's degrees in ophthalmic science and directly related fields are available|
|Certification||Voluntary certification can enhance job opportunities|
|Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)||11% for ophthalmic lab technicians*|
|Median Salary (2018)||$31,830 for ophthalmic lab technicians*|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Educational Requirements for Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians
Employers prefer to hire candidates with high school diplomas or GEDs, but postsecondary education isn't required to become an ophthalmic lab technician. Many laboratories provide on-the-job training to new hires, and the training time varies by employer. During this period, ophthalmic lab technicians learn how to make lenses by hand and with automated equipment. The specifications submitted by ophthalmologists, optometrists and opticians are adhered to in order to produce the final product.
Some community colleges and vocational schools offer ophthalmic lab technician certificates for students interested in formal training. These programs provide a general education background and teach subjects specific to making prescription eyewear, such as understanding eye anatomy, analyzing prescriptions and creating lenses. An apprenticeship may be part of some programs' curricula to give students hands-on experience. Certificates may be applied towards associate's degrees in ophthalmic science and other related studies. Certification isn't necessary for ophthalmic lab technicians, but it may increase advancement opportunities.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment growth rate is much faster than the national average, and it's primarily due to the expected need of vision care for the growing and aging population. Industries with the most ophthalmic laboratory technicians employed include medical equipment and supplies manufacturers, personal care stores and offices of other health practitioners. Individuals with formal education should have the best prospects for their career.
The BLS reported that the ophthalmic laboratory technicians earned an annual mean salary of $34,490 in May 2018. Salary varies according to state and employer, and some locations and industries offer more competitive wages because of a higher demand for the employees. Ophthalmic laboratory technicians can typically earn the most money in the federal executive branch, outpatient care services and commercial and service industry.
Ophthalmic lab technicians can learn the necessary skills on the job, or they can opt for professional instruction from a variety of community colleges and vocational schools. Ophthalmic lab technicians can also choose to become certified, thereby increasing their job opportunities even further.