How to Become an Ophthalmic Laboratory Technician

Whenever a new prescription for glasses is filled, that particular lens configuration is made from a lens blank is that is precision-shaped by an ophthalmic laboratory technician. Also known as manufacturing opticians, this sort of technician is a position designed to support optometrists and ophthalmologists, but can also find employment separate from the eye doctors themselves by working for retail outlets that specialize in the sale of prescription glasses and contact lenses. In either case, whether or not the technician is linked to a specific eye doctor, employment of an ophthalmic laboratory technician is completely dependent upon the successful practice of eye doctors in the area.

In addition to the creation of lenses to the specifications of the prescriptions written by eye doctors, ophthalmic laboratory technicians are responsible for the addition of various coatings to shaped lenses, as well as lens polishing and final assembly of frame and lens. Some technicians branch out and produce lenses for telescopes, microscopes, binoculars, and other optical instrumentation.

Opthamlmic Laboratory Technician Education
$27,970
High School or GED
None
Moderate-term
29,800
13%
3,800
Find Related CareersSOURCE: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Even though the ophthalmic laboratory technician directly supports the holder of a terminal professional degree in the medical field, the career does not strictly require a college degree. In fact, individuals without a high school diploma or GED can find work in this career line, though having a diploma does increase the odds of landing a job. Once hired, all further education consists entirely of on-the-job training, making this career one that is maintained for free while actively practicing it.

Advancement

Much like pharmacy technicians, ophthalmic laboratory technicians are linked to practicing medical professionals. Because this career exists to support them, it is impossible to completely get out from under their shadow without manufacturing lenses for binoculars and telescopes instead. While the median wage for this career is $27,970, the top ten percent of earners report an average wage of $43,220. This shows that, like any career attached to the medical field, good money comes to those who are qualified; however, unlike many careers attached to the medical field, the upper earnings are pressed down upon by being part of a career that is eternally delegated to a supporting role.

For those who are perfectly happy to continue in this fashion, the career allows those who enjoy working with their hands to have the security of a medical job with the required skillset of a machinist, with the one exception that the pieces being manufactured are quite literally light as a feather by design.

For those who want to try to maximize earnings, the only real way to have a chance is to go into business manufacturing lenses. If done in the glasses market, this is highly risky, as the convenience of getting glasses manufactured in the same building as an eye doctor is a hard combination to beat. Only by doing it cheaper, by shipping directly to homes so the client doesn’t have to drive back out to pick up the finished glasses, or by focusing on high-end fashion gives any ophthalmic laboratory technician turned entrepreneur any chance at all of being successful. Alternatively, a technician can go into the telescope and binoculars business. Note that brand awareness is particularly strong here, as well, making it difficult to break into the market.

However an ophthalmic laboratory technician wishes to advance, note it is all still completely dependent on the technicians ability to manufacture lenses. This is not a career that lends well to becoming part of administration. The career is designed to do the same thing on day 1 as it is on day 3000 and raises are simply a deferential nod to the technician’s ever-increasing skill with this one function.

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