An optical technician, commonly referred to as an ophthalmic laboratory technician, is an eye wear specialist whose job it is to make prescription eyeglasses and contact lenses. While many steps in the production process have been automated, there are some tasks that still require the expertise of a technician. The most fundamental role in manufacturing eyeglasses is the cutting of lenses to match the prescription written by the ophthalmologist or an optometrist following an eye exam.
Secondary tasks include shaping of the lenses so that they fit into frames properly, customization of lenses to include dyes and coatings, polishing of lenses, the assembly of lenses and frames, and ensuring that the end product meets the highest standards of quality. An optical technician must be skilled in all of these tasks in order to be successful.
These days, much of the eye wear production process has been automated using a variety of machines. Technicians are generally expected to know how to operate these machines in order to ensure the highest quality product. Depending on where a technician works, they may also be manufacturing lenses for items such as telescopes and binoculars. The role of the technician may also vary depending on the place of employment. Some businesses assign technicians to one specific task while others expect technicians to perform a wide variety of jobs. The details of the optical technician job description will vary widely based on the type of institution where they work.
Technicians are commonly found working for medical equipment companies, eye wear manufacturing companies, optometry offices, and ophthalmology clinics. Technicians spend very little time interacting directly with customers. For this reason, the job of optical technician is best suited for individuals who prefer not to have to deal with people on a daily basis. Personality has very little impact on the success of a technician and employers look more for qualities such as dependability and a comprehensive understanding of required job skills. Technicians should anticipate that most of their time will be spent working in a laboratory or industrial manufacturing environment.
Education and Training:
There are very few educational requirements for becoming an optical technician. Most technicians learn the required skills through hands-on training. Employers generally expect technicians to have at least a high school diploma or equivalent. Most businesses will start the training process with basic tasks such as marking and blocking lenses followed by more advanced skills like edging, grinding, and cutting lenses. Throughout the training process, employers will be assessing a technician’s ability to notice minor imperfections as well as their ability to work with their hands. A technician must be able to ensure precision in all finished products.
An optical technician earns, on average, around $30,000 per year. As with any job, the exact salary will vary depending on the employer and the amount of experience that the technician has. Some technicians earn less than $20,000 per year while others earn as much as $45,000 per year. Most technicians will start their career at the lower end of the salary range and gradually work their way up to the higher end of the range. As a technician gains more experience, they may be expected to take on more supervisory and training responsibilities. Some technicians even work their way into middle and upper level management positions.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the optical technician industry to experience a healthy increase in employment of around 13% from 2010 to 2020. This growth is due to the vision care requirements of an aging population and a growing interest in the functional and fashion components of eyeglasses. Technicians can look forward to job openings increasing steadily over the next several years. The job outlook along with the financial benefits of a technician career make this one of the most desirable jobs available in the current economy.