close print view
Optical Laboratory Technician
Optical Laboratory Technicians, also called Opticians, Optical Mechanics, and Ophthalmic Lab Technicians, set up and operate machines to cut, grind, and/or polish lenses according to prescriptions, and assemble completed lenses in eyeglass frames.
Optical Laboratory Technicians may:
Read the lens and frame specifications from prescriptions
Select proper lens blanks from stock
Mark lens blanks according to specifications using lens measuring equipment
Mount lenses in metal, plastic, or rimless frames
Inspect mounted lenses for conformance to specifications
Make necessary modifications
Examine broken lenses to identify original prescriptions
Tools and equipment used may include:
Optical Laboratory Technicians may specialize in these areas:
716.381-014 LAY-OUT TECHNICIANS locate and mark centers, axes, and terminal points on lens blanks; draw reference lines; and write specifications to guide other workers who surface or finish lenses.
PRECISION-LENS CENTERERS AND EDGERS operate grinders to edge and bevel lenses according to work orders and blueprints and measure lens edges using precision measuring instruments.
716.682-014 PRECISION-LENS GENERATORS set up and operate lens generating machines to grind eyeglass lens blanks to a specified curvature and thickness.
716.685-014 DRILLERS tend bench-mounted, single-spindle drill presses that bore holes in lenses for attachment of ear and nose pieces.
716.681-018 HAND LENS POLISHERS use lathes, jeweler's rouge, polishing cloths, or other polishing devices to finish or remove defects from lenses.
716.684-010 HAND BLOCKERS and 716.687-010 DEBLOCKER attach lens blanks to and remove them from metal blocks used to hold the blanks during grinding and polishing operations.
716.382-010 CONTACT LENS LATHE OPERATORS use jeweler's lathes to cut the inside or outside curvature in contact lens blanks.
716.280-014 OPTICAL MECHANIC
In large laboratories, Technicians may specialize in one phase or operation. In small labs, however, they may work in all or most of the above areas. They may also grind lenses for telescopes and microscopes. Many also work as dispensing opticians (MOIScript #308).
In addition to learning about these specialties, you may also find it helpful to explore the following MOIScripts:
Most Optical Laboratory Technicians work in optical laboratories under the direction of supervisors. Others work for dispensing opticians, ophthalmologists (eye physicians), and optometrists. Although they work with others, Technicians perform much of their work independently.
Most Technicians work in labs which are well lighted and ventilated. Modern optical processing techniques have eliminated some odors and dust. However, noise from power-grinding machinery and other equipment is to be expected. Sometimes goggles are worn to protect the eyes.
Those employed by commercial labs generally work a 5-day, 40-hour week. Self-employed Technicians develop their own work schedules.
Optical Lab Technicians may belong to the Opticians' Association of America and the Optical Laboratories Association, as well as others. Members must pay dues.
You Should Prefer:
You Should Be Able To:
Math Problem You Should Be Able to Solve:
If a certain lens is 32 millimeters wide, how many centimeters wide is it?
Reading Example You Should Be Able to Read and Comprehend:
An optical lens is made from some transparent material. One or both surfaces usually have a spherical contour.
Writing Example You Should Be Able to Produce:
You should be able to write a report explaining any modifications you had to make to the lenses and the frames.
Thinking Skill You Should Be Able to Demonstrate:
You should be able to decide the best way to fix a broken pair of frames as fast as possible so the customer does not have to be without his or her glasses.
Although licensing is not required in
NOTE: On-The-Job Training provided by the employer or a High School Diploma or Equivalent or a Certificate (program of up to one year of study beyond High School) or an Associate Degree (two years of study beyond High School) or an Apprenticeship (usually three to four years of training beyond High School) may qualify a person for this occupation.
The following education and preparation opportunities are helpful in preparing for occupations in the MOIScript:
***VOCATIONAL EDUCATION PROGRAMS***
There are no Vocational Education Programs related to this MOIScript
Programs in Optical Dispensing provide opportunities to gain the knowledge and skills needed to process lenses from a doctor's prescription and to assist customers in selecting appropriate eyewear.
Courses vary from school to school but may include:
There are no Apprenticeships related to this MOIScript
***MILITARY TRAINING PROGRAMS***
Please check the Military website at
Optometry, or vision care, is one of the many health benefits available to military personnel. The military operates its own clinics to examine eyes and fit glasses or contact lenses. Optometric technicians assist optometrist in providing vision care. They work with patients and manage clinic offices.
What They Do
Optometric technicians in the military perform some or all of the following duties:
Helpful school subjects include algebra, geometry, biology, and related courses. Helpful attributes include:
Job training consists of 9 to 13 weeks of classroom instruction, including practice in optometric procedures. Course content typically includes:
Further training occurs on the job.
Normal color vision is required for some specialties to use optometric instruments.
Optometric technicians normally work in optometric clinics.
Civilian optometric technicians work in private optometry offices, clinics, and government health agencies. They perform duties similar to those performed by military optometric technicians. Optometric technicians are also called optometric assistants.
The services have about 500 optometric technicians. On average, they need 60 new technicians each year. After training, new technicians give simple vision tests under close supervision and perform office duties. As they gain experience, they work with less supervision and perform more difficult tasks. In time, they may help to manage optometric clinics.
Since the work of Optical Lab Technicians requires specialized training, an accredited opticianary program is recommended. A summer or part-time job as messenger, stock clerk, or receptionist in an optical lab would allow a chance to observe these workers. Post-secondary optical dispensing programs and related military training offer experience also.
School-to-Work opportunities include:
job shadowing experiences
touring a local Optical Laboratory Technician employer
volunteer work with a Optical Laboratory Technician employer
community service work with an agency
This occupation is most commonly entered through direct application to local optical firms. For assistance in locating an opening, contact unions, school placement offices, a local office of Michigan Works!, or consult want ads in newspapers or trade publications. In addition, you should access and search the Internet's on-line employment services sites such as:
You should also enter an electronic resume on these on-line services.
Earnings of Optical Lab Technicians generally depend on the extent of unionization and the individual's training, experience and type of employment. Most self-employed Technicians usually receive considerably higher incomes than salaried Technicians receive.
Nationally, the median hourly earnings of nonsupervisory optical goods workers were about $10.36 in 1998. Some Optical Laboratory Technicians with five or more years of experience may earn more than $18.75 per hour.
Most Opticians receive paid vacations and holidays; life, accident, disability, and hospitalization insurance; paid sick leave; and discounts on optical goods and services. A few employers also have profit-sharing programs. These benefits are usually paid for, at least in part, by the employers.
Optical Laboratory Technicians may start as trainees and learn through on-the-job training. A few complete accredited college, vocational school, or technical school programs in opticianary. Experienced Technicians with leadership and/or business ability may advance to supervisory, managerial, or sales positions or become self-employed. Although the trend is to train specifically for dispensing optician jobs, a few Laboratory Technicians obtain additional training and go into both shop and dispensing work.
About 19,025 Optical Laboratory Technicians were employed nationally in 1996. The employment of Optical Laboratory Technicians is expected to increase more slowly than the average for all occupations through the year 2006. Overall, expenditures on eyeglasses and related appliances will continue the rising trend of recent years. As the general population grows and as the elderly continues to grow as a proportion of the general population, the demand for eyeglasses and optical goods will rise further.
The industry distribution for Optical Laboratory Technicians looked like this:
More than 475 Optical Lab Technicians are employed in
Employment of Optical Laboratory Technicians in
Factors contributing to growth include: high turnover rates for entry- level optical lab positions; an increase in employer or union sponsored optical insurance; public programs to provide eye care for low-income families; and increasing popularity of eyeglasses as a fashion accessory, which influences people to buy more than one pair. However, the popularity of "soft" contact lenses will result in fewer contact lens Technician positions.
Printed Occupational information is available upon written request from the sources below.
MOISCRIPTS are Copyright 2003, Michigan Department of Career Development
Michigan.gov Home State Web Sites Health Careers Home LARA Home
Copyright © 2001-2013 State of Michigan