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Have you ever thought about how your glasses or contact lenses are produced? It's not as simple as picking a frame off the racks and taking it home. Instead, your glasses or lenses need to be fitted precisely to your prescription and your measurements in an optical laboratory. Usually, it's the optical laboratory technician that does the bulk of the work.

If you were an optical laboratory technician, you would use cool equipment to cut, polish, and grind lenses. This equipment can also be dangerous, so you would have to wear plenty of safety gear such as goggles and gloves to protect yourself. You have to be very precise to be an optical laboratory technician, both to craft excellent lenses and to protect your fingers on the job.

You probably wouldn't need to go to college to be an optical laboratory technician because this is such a specialized skill. Instead, you would learn on-the-job from an already experienced technician. Then you would know all that you need to know to bring clear vision to the world.

What Does an Optical Laboratory Technician Do

Dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians construct, fit, or repair appliances and devices, including dentures, eyeglasses, and prosthetics.

Duties

Dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians typically do the following:

  • Follow detailed work orders and prescriptions
  • Determine which materials and tools will be needed
  • Bend, form, and shape fabric or material
  • Polish and shape appliances and devices, using hand or power tools
  • Adjust appliances or devices to allow for a more natural look or to improve function
  • Inspect the final product for quality and accuracy
  • Repair damaged appliances and devices

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

Dental laboratory technicians use impressions, or molds, of a patient’s teeth to create crowns, bridges, dentures, and other dental appliances. They work closely with dentists, but have limited contact with patients.

Dental laboratory technicians work with small hand tools, such as files and polishers. They work with many different materials, including wax, plastic, and porcelain, to make prosthetic appliances. In some cases, technicians use computer programs to create appliances or to get impressions sent from a dentist’s office.

Dental laboratory technicians can specialize in one of six areas: orthodontic appliances, crowns and bridges, complete dentures, partial dentures, implants, or ceramics. Technicians may have different job titles, depending on their specialty. For example, technicians who make porcelain and acrylic restorations, such as veneers and bridges, are called dental ceramists

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

Although they make some lenses by hand, ophthalmic laboratory technicians often use automated equipment. Some technicians manufacture lenses for optical instruments, such as telescopes and binoculars. Ophthalmic laboratory technicians should not be confused with dispensing opticians, who work with customers to select eyewear and may prepare work orders for ophthalmic laboratory technicians.

Medical appliance technicians construct, fit, and repair medical supportive devices, including arch supports, facial parts, and foot and leg braces.

Medical appliance technicians use many different types of materials, such as metal, plastic, and leather, to create a variety of medical devices for patients who need them because of a birth defect, an accident, disease, amputation, or the effects of aging. For example, some medical appliance technicians make hearing aids.

Orthotic and prosthetic technicians are medical appliance technicians who create orthoses (braces, supports, and other devices) and prostheses (replacement limbs and facial parts). These technicians work closely with orthotists or prosthetists.

How To Become an Optical Laboratory Technician

Dental or ophthalmic laboratory technicians or medical appliance technicians typically need a high school diploma or equivalent and receive on-the-job training.

Education

Ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians typically need at least a high school diploma or equivalent. There are some postsecondary programs available at community colleges or technical or vocational schools in dental laboratory technology and ophthalmic laboratory technology, but these are not common. High school students interested in becoming dental or ophthalmic laboratory technicians or medical appliance technicians should take courses in science, math, computer programming, and art.

Training

Most dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians learn their skills through on-the-job training. They usually begin as helpers in a laboratory and learn more advanced skills as they gain experience. For example, dental laboratory technicians may begin by pouring plaster into an impression to make a model. As they become more experienced, they may progress to more complex tasks, such as making porcelain crowns and bridges. Because all laboratories are different, the length of training varies.

Important Qualities

Detail oriented. Dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians must pay attention to detail. Technicians must follow work orders and prescriptions accurately and precisely. In addition, they need to be able to recognize and correct any imperfections in their work.

Dexterity. Dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians must work well with their hands because they use precise laboratory instruments.

Interpersonal skills. Dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians need to be able to work effectively with others because they may be part of a team of technicians working on a single project. In addition, they need good communication skills to ensure safety when they work with hazardous materials.

Technical skills. Dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians need to have an in depth knowledge of how different tools and materials work. They also must understand how to operate complex machinery. Some procedures are automated, so technicians must know how to operate and change the programs that run the machinery.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Certification is not required for dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians or medical appliance technicians. However, technicians may choose to earn specialty certifications because they show professional competence in a specialized field.

The National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology (NBC) offers certification as a Certified Dental Technician (CDT). Certification is available in six specialty areas: orthodontic appliances, crowns and bridges, complete dentures, partial dentures, implants, and ceramics.

To qualify for the CDT, technicians must have at least 5 years of on-the-job training or experience in dental technology or have graduated from an accredited dental laboratory technician program. Candidates also must pass 3 exams within a period of 4 years.

The American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics & Pedorthics (ABCOP) offers certification for medical appliance technicians. Technicians are eligible for the certification exam after completing an accredited program or if they have 2 years of experience as a technician under the direct supervision of a certified medical appliance technician.

Advancement

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

Medical appliance technicians can advance to become orthotists or prosthetists after completing additional formal education. These practitioners work with patients who need braces, prostheses, or related devices.

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Average Salary
$27,975
Average Salary
Job Growth Rate
11%
Job Growth Rate
Job Openings
22,374
Job Openings

Optical Laboratory Technician Career Paths

Top Careers Before Optical Laboratory Technician

Cashier
13.1 %
Optician
10.9 %

Top Careers After Optical Laboratory Technician

Optician
20.6 %

Optical Laboratory Technician Jobs You Might Like

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Average Salary for an Optical Laboratory Technician

Optical Laboratory Technicians in America make an average salary of $27,975 per year or $13 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $30,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $25,000 per year.
Average Salary
$27,975
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Recently Added Salaries

Job TitleCompanyascdescCompanyascdescStart DateascdescSalaryascdesc
Optical Lab Technician (2ND Shift)-Farmers Branch, TX #988
Optical Lab Technician (2ND Shift)-Farmers Branch, TX #988
Eyemart Express
Eyemart Express
06/13/2021
06/13/2021
$27,13106/13/2021
$27,131
Optical Lab Technician (2ND Shift)-Farmers Branch, TX #998
Optical Lab Technician (2ND Shift)-Farmers Branch, TX #998
Eyemart Express
Eyemart Express
05/27/2021
05/27/2021
$27,13105/27/2021
$27,131
Optical Lab Tech-3Rd Shift
Optical Lab Tech-3Rd Shift
The Walman Optical Company
The Walman Optical Company
05/15/2021
05/15/2021
$31,30505/15/2021
$31,305
Optical Lab Technician (1ST Shift)-Farmers
Optical Lab Technician (1ST Shift)-Farmers
Eyemart Express
Eyemart Express
03/18/2021
03/18/2021
$27,13103/18/2021
$27,131
Laser & Optics Lab Technician
Laser & Optics Lab Technician
Honeywell
Honeywell
03/16/2021
03/16/2021
$53,00003/16/2021
$53,000

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Optical Laboratory Technician Demographics

Gender

male

50.9 %

female

45.1 %

unknown

4.0 %

Ethnicity

White

58.8 %

Hispanic or Latino

22.3 %

Asian

11.1 %

Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

60.0 %

Swedish

5.7 %

Gujarati

5.7 %
See More Demographics

Optical Laboratory Technician Education

Majors

Business
17.6 %
Physics
8.2 %

Degrees

Certificate

27.7 %

Bachelors

22.1 %

Associate

20.6 %
See More Education Info

Online Courses For Optical Laboratory Technician That You May Like

Become an Optical Assistant
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Learn what it takes to become an optical assistant and discover why it's one of today's most popular and fascinating career opportunities...

Optical Engineering
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The courses in this specialization can also be taken for academic credit as ECEA 5600-5602, part of CU Boulder's Master of Science in Electrical Engineering degree. Enroll here. Optical instruments are how we see the world, from corrective eyewear to medical endoscopes to cell phone cameras to orbiting telescopes. This course will teach you how to design such optical systems with simple graphical techniques, then transform those pencil and paper designs to include real optical components includi...

Optical Efficiency and Resolution
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This course can also be taken for academic credit as ECEA 5601, part of CU Boulder's Master of Science in Electrical Engineering degree. Optical instruments are how we see the world, from corrective eyewear to medical endoscopes to cell phone cameras to orbiting telescopes. This course will teach you how to design such optical systems with simple mathematical and graphical techniques. The first order optical system design covered in the previous course is useful for the initial design of an opti...

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Top Skills For an Optical Laboratory Technician

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 59.4% of optical laboratory technicians listed equipment maintenance on their resume, but soft skills such as detail oriented and interpersonal skills are important as well.

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Top Optical Laboratory Technician Employers

1. Eyemart Express
4.2
Avg. Salary: 
$28,620
Optical Laboratory Technicians Hired: 
45+
2. Walmart
4.8
Avg. Salary: 
$30,625
Optical Laboratory Technicians Hired: 
32+
3. Luxottica
4.6
Avg. Salary: 
$29,512
Optical Laboratory Technicians Hired: 
21+
4. Hoya Vision Care
4.5
Avg. Salary: 
$29,416
Optical Laboratory Technicians Hired: 
15+
5. Essilor of America
4.6
Avg. Salary: 
$27,733
Optical Laboratory Technicians Hired: 
14+
6. United States Army
4.2
Avg. Salary: 
$28,260
Optical Laboratory Technicians Hired: 
13+

Optical Laboratory Technician Videos

Updated October 2, 2020