Ophthalmic Laboratory Technician Job Description, Career as an Ophthalmic Laboratory Technician, Salary, Employment
Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job
Education and Training: High school plus training
Salary: Median—$11.40 per hour
Employment Outlook: Fair
Definition and Nature of the Work
Ophthalmic laboratory technicians prepare eyeglass lenses or contact lenses from an eye doctor's (optometrist's or ophthalmologist's) prescription. Some make precision lenses for cameras, microscopes, telescopes, and military equipment. Ophthalmic laboratory technicians are also called manufacturing opticians, optical mechanics, or optical goods workers.
Ophthalmic laboratory technicians cut, grind, edge, and finish lenses. Although some technicians still grind lenses by hand, most use automated equipment to make lenses. The technician must choose the correct blank lens with which to begin, mark the lenses for grinding, place them in the machine, and set the dials for proper grinding. The lenses are finished and polished in other machines.
After the lenses are ground and polished, the ophthalmic laboratory technician checks the curvature of the lenses by using a lensometer. The lenses must fit the prescription or specifications exactly. The technician then fits the lenses to the glasses frame to produce a finished pair of glasses, or fits the lenses into optical equipment such as microscopes.
Education and Training Requirements
Most ophthalmic laboratory technicians are trained on the job. Employers filling trainee jobs generally prefer high school graduates. Interested individuals should take courses in science, mathematics, and computers. It generally takes at least six months to learn all phases of the job.
A small number of ophthalmic laboratory technicians learn the trade in the U.S. Armed Forces. A few vocational–technical institutes or trade schools offer programs in optical technology. Programs are from six months to one year.
Getting the Job
School placement offices can help students find jobs. Prospective technicians can apply directly to companies and private dispensing opticians for on-the-job training.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Optical laboratory technicians may advance in their careers by becoming supervisors or managers.
The outlook for ophthalmic laboratory technicians is expected to grow slower than average through the year 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Although the middle-aged and elderly populations requiring vision care will increase, so will the use of automated equipment, which will limit job growth for ophthalmic laboratory technicians.
Ophthalmic laboratory technicians have limited contact with the public. They generally work in clean, well-lighted, and well-ventilated laboratories, but they may stand much of the day. At times, laboratory technicians wear protective eye-wear, gloves, or masks. They must be precise and exacting in their work. Ophthalmic laboratory technicians generally work forty hours per week.
Earnings and Benefits
Earnings vary depending on education, experience, and place of employment. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2004 the median hourly earnings of ophthalmic laboratory technicians were $11.40. Benefits for salaried workers generally include health insurance and paid holidays and vacations.
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