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A photonics technician could...

Help research new fiber-optic fabrication methods so information can travel faster and more efficiently. fiber optic cable glowing Work on the manufacturing and maintenance of optical fingerprint scanners for a security company. Fingerprint scanner
Adjust and maintain sophisticated optical light microscopes for best image quality. Microscope Plan, obtain, and integrate the lasers needed to create top-quality laser shows. Laser show
Find out more...

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
Median Salary
Photonics Technician
U.S. Mean Annual Wage
Min Wage
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) Little or No Change (-2% to 2%)
  • On the third page of this document is a real-life scenario of Holly, a photonics technician. It gives an in-depth look into what a photonics technician does on a typical day.
Related Occupations
Source: O*Net

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.

In this video, photonics technicians discuss what the job is like and what to study in order to prepare yourself for the job.

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.

Work Environment

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...

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Think it takes expensive, sophisticated equipment to measure the speed of light? Think again! Outfit yourself with a simple handheld laser pointer, a protractor, and gelatin, and you're ready to get started. Read more
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Everyone has experienced the warmth provided by a shaft of sunlight through a window. In this physics science fair project, you will determine how the color of an object affects the amount of radiant energy that is absorbed. You will then use the Stefan-Boltzmann equation to determine the amount of energy that is absorbed and re-emitted by the different colors. Read more
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Did you know that you can figure out how much sugar is in a liquid without ever tasting it? In this science fair project, you will learn how to measure the concentration of sugar dissolved in a liquid by using a laser pointer, a hollow prism, and some physics. You will discover how refraction, or the bending of light, is the key to measuring the sugar content of a liquid with a laser pointer. Read more
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You've probably noticed the colorful patterns "reflecting" from the shiny surface of a CD disk. What you are seeing is actually diffraction of white light, and the rainbows of color are diffraction patterns. In this project you'll learn about how diffraction patterns are generated, and you'll find out how you can use a laser pointer and a protractor to measure the microscopic spacing of data tracks on a CD. Read more

Ask Questions

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.

Additional Information


  • BLS. (2016). Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), 2016 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved July 1, 2017.
  • NIH Office of Science Education. (n.d.). LifeWorks. Retrieved March 20, 2014.
  • O*Net Online. (2016). National Center for O*Net Development. Retrieved July 1, 2017.
  • 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
  • # Link Name="Photonics.Technician.7" Value="HtmlAnchor" HtmlText="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.

Additional Support

We'd like to acknowledge the additional support of:

  • Intel Foundation
  • Northrop Grumman
  • Seagate
Free science fair projects.