Laser Technician Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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Learn about a laser technician's job description, salary and training requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a laser technician career and find out if it's the right job for you.
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Laser Technician Career: Pros and Cons

Laser technicians can work in a variety of industries, and they enjoy a high median salary. Read more about the pros and cons of becoming a laser technician and see if it's a job that makes sense for your future.

Pros of Being a Laser Technician
Above-average wages (median annual salary of about $61,580 in 2014)*
Can work in a variety of industries (medical, engineering, telecommunications, etc.)**
A certificate or associate degree is sufficient for most jobs**
Work has concrete results, leading to a feeling of accomplishment***

Cons of Being a Laser Technician
Can come into contact with high voltage electricity and hazardous materials**
Slower-than-average job growth predicted (between -2% and 2% from 2012-2022)*
Might work irregular and long hours**
Travel may be required**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **California Employment Development Department, ***U.S. Department of Labor's O*NET OnLine.

Essential Career Information

Job Description and Duties

In general, laser technicians test, operate, fix and perform maintenance on laser systems. As a laser technician, you'll often use computers and other technological machinery, such as mechanical and electrical components. You'll need to be highly precise and take detailed notes in your work. You could be trained as a Laser/Electro-Optics Technician (LEOT) and could be classified as an engineering technician specializing in lasers.

Your daily work could include producing laser systems, cleaning and aligning the various parts of a laser system, and helping to develop additional uses for lasers. You'll need to use your knowledge of lasers to perform the work and make independent decisions. You'll likely work in a well-lit and well-equipped laboratory, and perhaps in environmentally-controlled conditions that minimize the risk of contamination.

Career Paths and Specializations

The title of laser technician often refers to those who make and maintain laser equipment, but duties can vary depending on your specialty. For example, laser technicians can work in medical environments, where tasks could include running diagnostic eye tests using lasers or operating lasers for use during surgery.

You could find work specifically in the field of telecommunications, where laser technicians are needed to work on products such as computers, cell phones and fiber optic cables. It's also possible to work at a laser manufacturing company. Alternately, you could work as a field service representative for a laser manufacturing firm, where you would install lasers, demonstrate how they are used and fix lasers when necessary.

Salary Info and Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't report specifically on laser technicians, but photonics technicians, who deal with lasers, are classified as a type of engineering technician. In 2014, the BLS reported that these technicians earned a median annual salary of about $61,580. From 2012-2022, they were expected to see a slower-than-average growth in job rates.

Career Skills and Requirements

Laser technicians typically hold either an associate's degree or a certificate pertaining to laser engineering. Programs in electronic technology could also be sufficient. Students studying in an LEOT program may even be referred to employers through their instructors. Laser technicians working in a medical setting might need to have a science degree and experience working with patients, and some form of healthcare certification could also be preferred.

Outside of educational requirements, all laser technicians need to be able to use delicate equipment, and have good dexterity and eyesight. Those who interact with customers as a field representative should have especially good interpersonal and communication skills.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Most job advertisements for laser technicians require working with other people, such as outside clients, other team members, scientists or engineers. Postings for jobs that are more involved with operating lasers tend not to require specific degrees, though they might require some work experience in a relevant environment. While the following list is not exhaustive, it is a representative sampling of jobs that were available in May 2012.

  • A machine tool manufacturer in Texas posted for a laser field service representative to work on laser cutting machines. Candidates need to have a 2-year technical degree in electronics or laser electro-optics, or equivalent military experience. They should also be able to travel frequently and possess good customer service skills.
  • A commercial staffing firm advertised for a laser technician to work with a client in Wisconsin. Candidates should have previous experience as a millwright, service technician or machine builder. They should also have mechanical, electrical and hydraulic work experience. No educational requirements were listed..
  • A California laser manufacturer is looking for a manufacturing technician to work with engineers in aligning laser resonators. Applicants should have a minimum of five years of work experience, with either an associate's degree or equivalent work experience required.
  • A Maryland eye care and laser center advertised for an ophthalmic technician with at least a high school diploma. Duties include gathering medical history from patients, conducting eye tests and discussing the results with the doctor. Candidates should have experience working with patients in a busy practice, and those who are already licensed ophthalmic technicians are preferred.

How to Get an Edge in the Field

The Board of Laser Safety offers the Certified Laser Safety Officer (CLSO) certification, which you can obtain after completing an associate degree, work experience and a Laser Safety Officer course. This certification can qualify you to take on increased responsibilities in the workplace, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. A Laser Safety Officer course could be completed through the Laser Institute of America, which offers educational opportunities and membership.

Alternative Career Paths

Biological Technician

Biological technicians assist biological and medical scientists with tests and experiments in the lab. Typical duties include setting up and maintaining laboratory equipment and analyzing data. You'll usually need a bachelor's degree in a related field in addition to experience working in a laboratory. According to the BLS, employment growth is expected to be about average from 2010-2020, at 14%, and biological technicians made a median annual wage of around $39,000 in May 2011.

Mechanical Engineer

If you're more interested in building and designing machinery, you could become a mechanical engineer. Mechanical engineers typically use computers and a variety of tools in order to research and build mechanical devices. You could work in any number of industries, and you'll need at least a bachelor's degree to get started in the field. Employment is expected to be slower than average from 2010-2020, according to the BLS, and mechanical engineers made a median annual salary of around $79,000 in May 2011.

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