Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians
Ophthalmic laboratory technicians also known as optical mechanics, manufacturing opticians and optical goods workers make prescription eyeglass lenses and contact lenses based on an ophthalmologist's or an optometrist's prescription. Some ophthalmic laboratory techs make precision lenses for microscopes, telescopes, cameras and military equipment.
Manufacturing opticians cut, grind, edge and finish lenses. Most Ophthalmic laboratory technicians utilize automated equipment to produce lenses, however some are still made by hand. In large laboratories, practically every stage of the operation is automated and technicians operate computerized equipment. They also inspect the lenses for accuracy and quality. In small laboratories, technicians typically handle all the stages of the operation.
- Select the proper blank lens
- Cut, grind, edge and finish lenses
- Check the curvature of the lens with a lensometer
- Fit the lenses to the glasses' frame
- Fit lenses into optical equipment
- Adjust lenses and frames in order to correct alignment
- Assemble eyeglass frames and attach nose pads, shields and temple pieces
- Inspect lens blanks in order to detect flaws
They work in clean, well-ventilated and well-lighted laboratories. Manufacturing opticians have limited public contact. Most of these technicians work 40 hours a week. Laboratory techs should have good manual dexterity and good vision. They should also be detailed oriented.
The employment of ophthalmic laboratory technicians has been forecasted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to grow by 15 percent during the 2008 to 2018 timeframe which is faster than average for all occupations. Demand for these workers will expand due to the growth of the middle aged and older population. Middle aged is often the time when people need corrective lenses for the first time. However, automated machinery is increasingly being used in the industry which may tone down the demand for employment for ophthalmic laboratory technicians.
The median annual earnings for ophthalmic laboratory technicians in 2008 was $27,210. Experienced optical mechanics can move up to supervisor or management positions.
Education, Certification, and Licensing
Employers seek candidates that have a high school diploma and some employers prefer to hire those with formal training. Most ophthalmic laboratory technicians learn their trade on the job. Classes in science, computers, mathematics, drafting, metal shop and wood shop are beneficial.
A small number of ophthalmic laboratory technicians learn their trade from a vocational school. In 2008 there were two programs in ophthalmic technology that had received accreditation from the Commission on Opticianry Accreditation. These programs typically take six months to one year to complete and provide certificates or diplomas.
The top job providers are medical equipment and supplies manufacturing companies, health and personal care stores, optometrists offices, and professional and commercial equipment and supplies merchant wholesalers.