How Can I Become an Ophthalmic Lab Technician?

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in ophthalmic lab technology. Read on to learn more about career options along with salary and licensure information. Schools offering Clinical Laboratory Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Ophthalmic Lab Technician?

Ophthalmic lab technicians make glasses and contact lenses to match prescriptions provided by optometrists, ophthalmologists and dispensing opticians. Ophthalmic lab technicians cut, grind, polish and finish lenses using automated machinery or hand tools. You must be able to read prescriptions and utilize lens blanks, molds and tools to create eyewear that matches prescriptions. Some technicians also repair ophthalmic devices that have broken.

See the table below for more information about ophthalmic lab technicians:

Degree RequiredH.S. Diploma or G.E.D. at minimum; certificate and degree programs are available
Education Field of StudyOphthalmic laboratory technology
Training Required On-the-job training is common
Key ResponsibilitiesCut, grind, polish and finish corrective lenses
Assemble and mount lenses into frames
Operate machinery designed to create and refine corrective lenses
Job Growth (2014-2024)10%*
Mean Salary (2015)$32,970*

Source:*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Would I Do as an Ophthalmic Lab Technician?

Your job duties will include immersing lenses in tints or coatings if needed to meet the prescription. You'll fit the shaped lenses into eyeglass frames and add temple stems and nose pieces to complete the project. You may examine the finished eyeglasses or contact lenses for quality before they are given to patients or customers. Ophthalmic lab technicians may also fashion lenses for binoculars and telescopes.

What Education Should I Obtain?

You can lay the foundation for a career as an ophthalmic lab technician in high school by taking classes in industrial and creative arts, computers, math and science. You usually need only a high school diploma or GED to get a job as an ophthalmic lab technician. Beyond a high school education, this career does not have any official education requirements, and many ophthalmic lab technicians acquire the necessary skills through on-the-job training; however, many employers favor technicians who have completed formal training.

To obtain formal training, you may choose to study ophthalmic laboratory technology in a certificate or associate's degree program. These programs teach you about eyewear fabrication, lens tinting, ophthalmic materials and technology, quality control and workplace safety. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), another option for learning the necessary job skills is to serve in the military (www.bls.gov). You do not need a license or certification to work as an ophthalmic laboratory technician.

What are My Employment Options?

Ophthalmic lab technicians work in labs that produce medical equipment as well as for optical stores, medical offices and optical products wholesalers. According to the BLS, jobs for ophthalmic laboratory technicians were projected to grow by 10% between 2014 and 2024, which is faster than average. Those who have formal training were expected to see the best job prospects. The BLS states that the mean salary for ophthalmic lab technicians in 2015 was $32,970.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Another job option in medical device manufacturing is a career as a dental laboratory technician. These professionals make prosthetic dental appliances, like dentures, crowns and bridges, based on a patient's tooth impressions. Like ophthalmic lab technicians, they only need a high school diploma, but formal training can improve their skills. Alternatively, if you know you want to remain in the eyewear field, you could get a job as a dispensing optician, where you would fit patients with glasses and contact lenses based on the prescriptions of ophthalmologists and optometrists. The minimum educational requirement for this job is a high school diploma.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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