A photonics technician could...
|Help research new fiber-optic fabrication methods so information can travel faster and more efficiently.||Work on the manufacturing and maintenance of optical fingerprint scanners for a security company.|
|Adjust and maintain sophisticated optical light microscopes for best image quality.||Plan, obtain, and integrate the lasers needed to create top-quality laser shows.|
Key Facts & Information
|Overview||Do you enjoy watching cable television, texting on your phone, and surfing the Internet? Do you know anyone who has had eye surgery and been back to normal the next day? Many of the advances in telecommunications and medicine are due to laser and fiber-optic technology. This technology has led to devices that provide faster and richer communication, advanced surgeries, and faster healing times, as well as amazing robotics for manufacturing. But, as with all equipment, someone has to install and maintain it. That is what photonics technicians do. These professionals are responsible for building, installing, testing, and maintaining optical and fiber-optic equipment such as lasers, lenses, and optics systems. Photonics technicians contribute to the technology that has drastically changed how we communicate and how we live.|
|Key Requirements||Mechanical aptitude, good eye-hand coordination, manual dexterity, ability to think analytically, teamwork skills|
|Minimum Degree||Associate's degree|
|Subjects to Study in High School||Physics, algebra, geometry; if available, computer science, applied technology|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||Little or No Change (-2% to 2%)|
Training, Other Qualifications
Most employers prefer candidates with associate's degrees. However, because photonics is a field that is changing and progressing, photonics technicians need to upgrade their skills and take courses to learn about technological advancements.
Photonics technicians new to the job will usually spend time training with a senior and more-experienced photonics technician.
Education and Training
The minimum degree required for an entry-level position as a photonics technician is an associate's degree in physics, electronics, or related field. Some employers may offer on-the-job training for candidates with a high school degree and a very strong background in math and science.
Nature of the Work
Photonics is the science of generating and harnessing light for the purpose of detecting and transmitting information. Photonics uses lasers, optics, fiber optics, and electro-optical devices for a variety of applications, including telecommunications, military, manufacturing, and medicine. Photonics technicians work on building, installing, testing, and maintaining photonics tools using spectrometers, interferometers, or related equipment.
Photonics technicians work with either semiconductor or gas lasers. The term laser is an acronym for "light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation." A laser is a device that emits highly coherent light. This means that the emitted light is spatially narrow and lies within a narrow band of frequencies. Photonics technicians who work with semiconductor lasers usually do so for telecommunication companies and for optical-fiber manufacturers. They work with engineers and scientists to develop new fiber-optics designs and applications as well as improve on laser design. They also perform testing on lasers, optical components, and optical assemblies.
Photonics technicians can work on gas-laser systems that are used in manufacturing and medicine. Manufacturing laser tools are used for tasks such as precision-cutting and welding. Medical laser tools are used by doctors to diagnose and treat disease and for delicate surgeries, such as repairing and strengthening retinas. Photonics technicians work on building, testing, and maintaining these systems.
Photonics technicians work for telecommunication companies, medical facilities, and the military. They work in offices and in laboratories. Photonics technicians work a standard 40-hour week. If project deadlines are approaching, they may work overtime or on weekends. When photonics technicians work for a manufacturing facility, they may work a shift schedule.
Because photonics technicians work with lasers in laboratories and in manufacturing plants, they must wear all required safety protection gear.
On the Job
- Adjust or maintain equipment such as lasers, laser systems, microscopes, oscilloscopes, pulse generators, power meters, beam analyzers, and energy measurement devices.
- Assemble fiber optical, optoelectronic, or free-space optics components, subcomponents, assemblies, or subassemblies.
- Build prototype optomechanical devices for use in equipment such as aerial cameras, gunsights, and telescopes.
- Fabricate devices such as optoelectronic and semiconductor devices.
- Perform laser seam welding, heat treatment, or hard facing operations.
- Repair or calibrate products such as surgical lasers.
- Set up or operate assembly or processing equipment such as lasers, cameras, die bonders, wire bonders, dispensers, reflow ovens, soldering irons, die shears, wire pull testers, temperature or humidity chambers, and optical spectrum analyzers.
- Set up or operate prototype or test apparatus such as control consoles, collimators, recording equipment, and cables.
- Splice fibers using fusion-splicing or other techniques.
- Terminate, cure, polish, or test fiber cables with mechanical connectors.
- Assemble and adjust parts or related electrical units of prototypes to prepare for testing.
- Assist engineers in the development of new products, fixtures, tools, or processes.
- Design, build, or modify fixtures used to assemble parts.
- Lay out cutting lines for machining using drafting tools.
- Mix, pour, and use processing chemicals or gases according to safety standards and established operating procedures.
- Optimize process parameters by making prototype and production devices.
- Perform diagnostic analyses of processing steps using analytical or metrological tools such as microscopy, profilometry, and ellipsometry devices.
- Assist scientists or engineers in the conduct of photonic experiments.
- Record test results and compute test data.
- Test and perform failure analysis for optomechanical or optoelectrical products according to test plans.
- Document procedures such as calibration.
- Maintain activity logs.
- Maintain clean working environments according to clean-room standards.
- Monitor inventory levels and order supplies as necessary.
- Recommend design or material changes to reduce costs or processing times.
Companies That Hire Photonics Technicians
Explore what you might do on the job with one of these projects...
Do you have a specific question about a career as a Photonics Technician that isn't answered on this page? Post your question on the Science Buddies Ask an Expert Forum.
- O*Net Online. (2016). National Center for O*Net Development. Retrieved July 1, 2017, from https://www.onetonline.org/
- Vandergriff, L. (n.d.). Fundamentals of photonics: nature and properties of light. Retrieved June 1, 2011, from spie.org/Documents/Publications/00 STEP Module 01.pdf
- OP-TEC. (2011). Photonics career videos: Nathan Barnhill, manufacturing engineer, Northrop Grumman Corp.; Kale Wyngarden, laser electro-optics technician, Northrop Grumman Corp. Retrieved May 31, 2019, from http://www.op-tec.org/career-videos
- StateUniversity.com. (2011). Photonics technician job description, career as a photonics technician, salary, employment - definition and nature of the work, education and training requirements, getting the job. Net Industries. Retrieved June 2, 2011, from https://careers.stateuniversity.com/pages/370/Photonics-Technician.html
We'd like to acknowledge the additional support of:
- Intel Foundation
- Northrop Grumman
Explore Our Science Videos
Build a Gauss Rifle
Make a Homemade Fly Trap
DIY Glitter Surprise Package with a Simple Circuit