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Optical technicians manufacture eyeglasses and contact lenses. They may also make lenses for binoculars, telescopes or other optical devices.

What does an optical technician do?

Optical technician duties may vary based on where they work. For example, an optical technician who works in a laboratory may be wholly focused on cutting, refining and polishing lenses; an optical technician who is employed in a health or personal care store may also be responsible for customer service, including helping customers choose the right eyeglass frames and adjust them to achieve the right fit, or assisting them with inserting and removing contact lenses.

The most common tasks performed by an optical technician include:

  • Cutting lenses to match the prescription from an optometrist or optician
  • Grinding and shaping lenses to fit eyeglass frames
  • Polishing lenses and applying any chemicals (such as color for sunglasses or a scratch-resistant coating)
  • Assembling lenses within frames and inspecting them for quality and accuracy
  • Manufacturing lenses for telescopes, binoculars and other optical instruments

Much of this work is automated by technology, although a skilled human operator is required to produce lenses that meet quality standards.

What skills does an optical technician need?

Optical technicians need strong technical skills in order to use complex equipment for tasks like cutting, grinding and polishing lenses. They also use small hand tools, which require manual dexterity. A good eye for detail is also necessary for very precise work.

Where does an optical technician work?

Optical technicians are most commonly employed in laboratories, although they may also work in optometrists’ offices, health stores or clinics.

What kind of salary does an optical technician earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage of ophthalmic laboratory technicians was $27,970 in 2010. The lowest 10 percent earned more than $18,480, and the top 10 percent earned more than $43,220.

Factors that affect salary include geographic location and employer industry, size and type of company. Check to find average salary range for optical technicians in your region.

Will there be many jobs as an optical technician available?

Optical technician employment growth is expected to be average; about 13 percent from 2010 to 2020.

Demographic trends from population growth to the aging of the large baby boomer cohort will contribute to growth in the need for vision correction and thus, for optical technician work. While laser surgery will decrease the need for some people to wear glasses, the overall number of people who require some form of corrective eyewear will continue to increase.

For more information on the optical technician career path, please see the articles below:

How to Become an Optical Technician

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