Ophthalmic Laboratory Technician

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Grind, polish, and cut lenses for eyeglasses, contact lenses, and other precision optical products. Select lens blanks, molds, tools, and polishing and grinding wheels based on optometrist, optician, or other directions.

Assemble, secure, and align finished lenses into frames using small hand tools and high-precision machines. Clean finished lens, contacts, and eyeglasses using special cloths and solvents. Repair bent or broken eyeglass frames including making replacement lenses as needed.

Ophthalmic laboratory technicians are employed by optical equipment manufacturers and supply companies, health and personal care offices, opticians, optometrists, and ophthalmologists. They serve as the producers of the lens used in eyeglasses, sunglasses, and contact lenses that are sold through retail and professional optician stores. All prescription eyewear are custom orders specific to each individual patient's prescription and frame selection. They also produce the lenses used in binoculars and telescopes.

Many people rely on corrective lenses, either in the form of glasses or contacts in order to read, to drive, or simply move about safely. Though traditionally a job performed by optometrists, the crafting of prescription, corrective glasses in recent decades has shifted to ophthalmic laboratory technicians. These specially trained individuals use small hand tools and careful techniques along with high-precision machines to make the world clearer for millions of people.

The detailed work of an ophthalmic laboratory technician begins when they receive a patient prescription from an optometrist, often with a selected pair of frames attached. After entering the prescription and frame information into the laboratory's production management system, the ophthalmic laboratory technician will pick the appropriate lens. The lenses are then placed in a job tray where they will be held throughout the process. The lenses are next blocked, generated, fined, polished, edged and then mounted into the frames. These processes are accomplished by computerized and manual machines that grind, cut and polish the lenses to match the prescription specifications, and then edge and cut the lens to fit into the frame.

The modern ophthalmic laboratory may also be equipped with sophisticated coating equipment used for applying scratch resistant coatings and anti-reflective coatings. Careful hand-crafted final adjustments may need to be made. This requires the ophthalmic laboratory technician to have very good hand and eye coordination skills for these finishing touches.

Once the lenses are ready, they can be mounted and secured in the frames selected by the patient. Primarily using hand tools, these frames are adjusted to tightly hold the lenses for long use. Before sending the finished product back to the optometrist to give to the patient, the ophthalmic laboratory technician will do a final cleaning and packaging.

As in the case of dental and medical laboratory technician occupations, ophthalmic laboratory technicians need to have good vision, arm and hand steadiness, and the ability to make precise, coordinated finger movements to grasp, place, and assemble very small objects. They also need to be good communicators who can accurately listen and read instructions, and speak and write clearly. As they gain experience, they also may become involved in training or supervising newer ophthalmic laboratory technicians or trainees.

Ophthalmic laboratory technician is an entry-level occupation that is well-suited to individuals who enjoy custom-making small devices and appliances in a work-bench, laboratory setting. With experience and further training, an individual may become a supervisor or manager, or perhaps open their own optical appliance manufacturing business. Alternatively, they also may choose to cross train in the ophthalmic field to become an optician or optometrist.

Credentials Needed: Ophthalmic laboratory technicians are not required to be state licensed or registered. This is an entry-level level occupation within the healthcare industry and employers usually provide most needed skills training in an on-the-job-training setting.

Some Key Things to Remember: Ophthalmic laboratory technicians cut, grind, and polish eyeglasses, contact lenses, and other precision optical products. They select lens blanks, molds, tools, and polishing and grinding wheels based on optometrist or optician directions. They serve as the producers of the customized lens eyeglasses, sunglasses, and contact lenses sold through retail and professional optician stores. All prescription eyewear are custom orders specific to each individual patient's prescription and frame selection. They also may work to produce the lenses used in binoculars and telescopes. There are no formal training requirements needed to become an ophthalmic laboratory technician, and most learn their tasks and duties through on-the-job training.

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Job Growth and Wages
Percent Job Growth:  
10% - Average
Typical Wages (National):  
Annual: $25,130 - $38,850    Hourly: $12 - $19
Physical/Medical/Health Requirements

Arm-Hand Steadiness: Ability to keep the hand and arm steady while making an arm movement or while holding the arm and hand in one position. Good Eye and Hand Coordination: Ability to properly guide the hand to make small lens production and lens fitting adjustments.

Legal Requirements
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Typical Education: High School or GED (HS)
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(Data Drawn from O*NET)

Career Snapshot

Typical Education:

High School or GED (HS)
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Percent Job Growth:

10% - Average
Find Jobs

Typical Wages:

Annual: $25,130 - $38,850

Hourly: $12 - $19