Laser technicians work under the supervision of scientists and engineers, testing, operating, repairing, and maintaining lasers and laser-related equipment. They sometimes use computers to design and track the fabrication of fibers. Adhering to strict safety standards, they keep detailed records and notations of the work they complete. They are often responsible for building entire laser systems. This work involves mechanical, electronic, and optical knowledge and concepts. Some technicians work in the experimental realm of the occupation, testing new designs and techniques and developing new types of equipment.
Other laser technicians work in the production realm of the occupation. They follow the specifications of design engineers, cleaning and aligning the lenses and other optical pieces, checking electronics, and preparing the gas-filled plasma tube. This is much different than standard assembly line work because technicians must apply their detailed knowledge of concepts and principles to make correct decisions. They often check and test lasers after they have been assembled. If they find defects, they correct them before the product goes on the market. Some laser technicians serve as field technicians, installing lasers and laser equipment at the customers' location.
Laser technicians need to have drafting and computer assisted design skills. They need to be able to control electronic instrumentation and electro-mechanical systems. Because they use equipment that is extremely delicate, laser technicians need to have normal use of their hands and fingers, as well as good manual dexterity. Those who work in the field need to have good interpersonal and customer service skills.
Laser technicians earn a median hourly wage of around $19. They work a standard 40-hour work week, and some work flex schedules, such as four 10-hour days on and three days off. Benefits often include paid vacations, holidays, sick leave, insurance, and retirement plans.
Training and Education
Employers of laser technicians require applicants to have at least a certificate or an associate degree in electrical or electronic technology. Many community colleges and technical schools offer degrees in Laser/Electro-Optics Technology (LEOT). A number of laser technicians earn their certificate, obtain a job, and then continue their education while working. Other options include an associate degree in electronics along with classes in vacuum technology and optics. Some receive training in electronics in the Armed Forces. High school students interested in these degree programs should take courses in electrical, electronic, advanced math, and computer science. Laser technicians can advance by earning higher pay and assuming greater responsibilities. Some may advance to lead technician, or to engineering technician with additional education. Some earn engineering degrees and advance into laser engineering specialties. Visit this page about trade schools for more information on related careers.
Between 2002 and 2012, employment of laser technicians is expected to increase about as fast as the average. This will be due in part to the healthy growth in the telecommunications industry, which requires the use of lasers and fiber optic systems. Many technicians are hired even before they complete their college training.