Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians

Summary

Ophthalmic laboratory technicians
Although some lenses are produced by hand, technicians often use automated equipment to make lenses.
Quick Facts: Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians
2010 Median Pay $27,970 per year
$13.45 per hour
Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Moderate-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2010 29,800
Job Outlook, 2010-20 13% (About as fast as average)
Employment Change, 2010-20 3,800

What Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians Do

Ophthalmic laboratory technicians make prescription eyeglasses and contact lenses. They are also commonly known as manufacturing opticians, optical mechanics, or optical goods workers.

Work Environment

Ophthalmic laboratory technicians work in medical equipment and supplies manufacturing laboratories, health and personal care stores, and offices of ophthalmologists and optometrists. They often have limited contact with the public.

How to Become an Ophthalmic Laboratory Technician

There are no formal postsecondary education requirements for becoming an ophthalmic laboratory technician, and most technicians have at least a high school diploma. Technicians usually learn their skills on the job.

Pay

The median annual wage of ophthalmic laboratory technicians was $27,970 in May 2010.

Job Outlook

Employment of ophthalmic laboratory technicians is expected to increase 13 percent from 2010 to 2020, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of ophthalmic laboratory technicians with similar occupations.

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Contacts for More Information

Learn more about ophthalmic laboratory technicians by contacting these additional resources.

What Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians Do

Ophthalmic laboratory technicians
Ophthalmic laboratory technicians make contact lenses.

Ophthalmic laboratory technicians make prescription eyeglasses and contact lenses. They are also commonly known as manufacturing opticians, optical mechanics, or optical goods workers.

Duties

Ophthalmic laboratory technicians typically do the following:

  • Cut lenses to the appropriate prescription that they get from ophthalmologists, dispensing opticians, or optometrists
  • Shape lenses so that they fit into frames
  • Dip lenses into dyes or coatings if the prescription requires the lenses to be tinted
  • Polish lenses either by hand or mechanically
  • Assemble lenses and frames together to create prescription glasses
  • Inspect the final product for quality and accuracy

Although they make some lenses by hand, ophthalmic laboratory technicians often use automated equipment. Some technicians manufacture lenses for other optical instruments, such as telescopes and binoculars.

In small laboratories, technicians may handle every phase of production. In larger ones, technicians may be responsible for only one phase of production, such as polishing.

Ophthalmic laboratory technicians should not be confused with workers in other vision care occupations, such as ophthalmologists, optometrists, and dispensing opticians. For more information, see the profiles on physicians and surgeons (including ophthalmologists), optometrists, and opticians, dispensing.

Work Environment

Ophthalmic laboratory technicians
Some ophthalmic laboratory technicians manufacture lenses for optical instruments such as telescopes and binoculars.

Ophthalmic laboratory technicians held about 29,800 jobs in 2010. Ophthalmic laboratory technicians work in medical equipment and supplies manufacturing laboratories, health and personal care stores, and offices of ophthalmologists and optometrists.

The following industries employed the largest numbers of ophthalmic laboratory technicians in 2010:

Health and personal care stores27%
Medical equipment and supplies manufacturing26
Offices of optometrists13
Offices of physicians10
Commercial and service industry machinery manufacturing6

Ophthalmic laboratory technicians often have limited contact with the public. To avoid injuries, technicians may wear goggles, gloves, or masks while working. They may spend a great deal of time standing or bending.

How to Become an Ophthalmic Laboratory Technician

Ophthalmic laboratory technicians
There are no postsecondary education requirements for becoming an ophthalmic laboratory technician, but most technicians have at least a high school diploma.

There are no postsecondary education requirements for becoming an ophthalmic laboratory technician, and most technicians have at least a high school diploma. Technicians usually learn their skills on the job.

Training

Most ophthalmic laboratory technicians learn through on-the-job training. They usually begin by marking or blocking lenses for grinding in a laboratory and learn more advanced skills such as grinding, cutting, and edging lenses as they gain experience. The length of the training varies from one laboratory to another.

Important Qualities

Detail oriented. Ophthalmic laboratory technicians must be able to notice slight imperfections to create lenses.

Dexterity. Ophthalmic laboratory technicians must work well with their hands. They work closely with precise laboratory instruments in small work areas.

Technical skills. Ophthalmic laboratory technicians must understand how to operate complex machinery. Some procedures are automated, and technicians must know how to operate or change the programs that run the machinery.

Education

Most ophthalmic laboratory technicians are hired with a high school diploma and then learn their tasks through on-the-job training. They usually begin as helpers and gradually learn new skills as they gain experience. High school students interested in entering the occupation should take classes in design, computer technology, and industrial arts.

Advancement

In large laboratories, ophthalmic laboratory technicians may work their way up to a supervisory level and may train new technicians. Some may go on to own and operate a laboratory.

Pay

Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians

Median annual wages, May 2010

Total, All Occupations

$33,840

Production Occupations

$30,330

Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians

$27,970

 

The median annual wage of ophthalmic laboratory technicians was $27,970 in May 2010. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned more than $18,480, and the top 10 percent earned more than $43,220.

Job Outlook

Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians

Percent change in employment, projected 2010-20

Total, All Occupations

14%

Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians

13%

Production Occupations

4%

 

Employment is expected to grow by 13 percent from 2010 to 2020, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Most people need vision correction at some point in their lives. As the total population continues to grow, people will need more vision aids, such as glasses and contacts.

Middle age is a time when many people use corrective lenses for the first time, and the need for vision care continues to increase with age. As the large baby-boom generation and their children get older, the need for vision correction will create a demand for ophthalmic laboratory services.

As laser vision correction becomes less expensive, there will be an increase in the demand for that service and a decrease in the demand for eyeglasses. However, even with laser correction, almost all adults need reading glasses or corrective eyewear later in their lives. The cause is retinal hardening, which happens naturally as people age, making it harder for the eye to focus.

Employment projections data for ophthalmic laboratory technicians, 2010-20
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2010 Projected Employment, 2020 Change, 2010-20 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians

51-9083 29,800 33,600 13 3,800 [XLS]

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of ophthalmic laboratory technicians.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2010 MEDIAN PAY Help
Opticians, dispensing

Opticians, Dispensing

Dispensing opticians help fit eyeglasses and contact lenses, following prescriptions from ophthalmologists and optometrists. They also help customers decide which eyeglass frames or type of contact lenses to buy.

High school diploma or equivalent $32,940
Optometrists

Optometrists

Optometrists perform eye exams to check for vision problems and diseases. They prescribe eyeglasses or contact lenses as needed.

Doctoral or professional degree $94,990
Medical equipment repairers

Medical Equipment Repairers

Medical equipment repairers install, maintain, and repair patient care equipment.

Associate’s degree $44,490
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/ophthalmic-laboratory-technicians.htm (visited March 31, 2015).

Publish Date: Tuesday, June 26, 2012