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A Career in Optics

Optics, the study of light, has been pursued by humanity since its earliest forays into science.

It was through optics that early philosophers made some of their most profound inferences about the nature of Earth. In time, the telescope transformed our view of the universe and microscopes helped scientists gain insights into the deepest mysteries of organic bodies.

Today, optical engineering exists to translate the profound insights of optics into applications. Optical engineers design all the components of optical instruments – from the most fundamental lenses to the most sophisticated telescopes.

The computing revolution also created new innovations in optical technology. Fiber optics systems provide some of the fastest computer networks on the planet. People use optical discs, like CDs and DVDs, regularly.

Optics as a Career Field

Those who pursue optical engineering as a vocation have the chance to be involved with exciting technologies that can dramatically improve quality of life. According to research by Payscale and Glassdoor, optical engineer salaries average about $85,000-$91,000 nationwide.

Optics professionals tend to have a strong background in mathematics and physics. They may be involved in advanced research on optical properties, the development and commercialization of optics products, or anywhere in between. They can work in aerospace, healthcare, robotics, manufacturing, automotive, and other industries.

Because there are so many specializations, there is no “average” optics expert. Those who are involved in the development of new machinery, products, or processes generally benefit from skills in Computer Assisted Design (CAD). The ability to collaborate with others can be crucial – working within teams and, when necessary, leading them.

Some exciting jobs include:

Optics Physicist

Optics physicists’ insights guide and shape the whole field. They are focused on advanced studies, which may involve fiber optics, lasers, or medical tools. They develop experiments and produce research used by others, so they often take on roles as professors. They are very likely to hold a Ph.D. in physics.

Laser Engineer

Laser devices generate concentrated light beams through optical amplification. Today, engineers design and build lasers for healthcare, IT, and other uses. They test and optimize all components before final manufacture, then refine processes for best results. The laser engineer must be able to translate technical drawings into CAD designs.

Machine Vision Engineer

Machine vision allows robots and other devices to process visual information. It is crucial to the development of semi-autonomous machines, including manufacturing robots and self-guiding vehicles. Machine vision engineers bring advanced programming skills to bear on the challenges of interpreting visual data in fast-moving environments.

Optics is on the cutting edge of technological progress. There are thousands of jobs for qualified professionals all around the United States, with no end in sight to the field’s potential.

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