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Career Guide: Medical Appliance, Dental Lab, and Ophthalmic Lab Technicians

Career Guide: Medical Appliance, Dental Lab, and Ophthalmic Lab Technicians

(Source: Creative Commons)

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Each dental laboratory owner operates in a different way, and classroom instruction does not necessarily expose students to techniques and procedures favored by individual laboratory owners. Students who have taken enough courses to learn the basics of the craft usually are considered good candidates for training, regardless of whether they have completed a formal program. Many employers will train someone without any classroom experience.

Ophthalmic laboratory technicians start on simple tasks if they are training to produce lenses by hand. They may begin with marking or blocking lenses for grinding; then, they progress to grinding, cutting, edging, and beveling lenses; finally, they are trained in assembling the eyeglasses. Depending on individual aptitude, it may take up to 6 months to become proficient in all phases of the work.

More on Clinical Lab Techs


Salary: $49,7000r
Min. Education: Bachelor's
Related Careers: Nuclear Med Tech, Biological Technician

Employers filling trainee jobs prefer applicants who are high school graduates. Courses in science, mathematics, and computers are valuable; manual dexterity and the ability to do precision work are essential. Technicians using automated systems will find computer skills valuable.

A few ophthalmic laboratory technicians learn their trade in the Armed Forces or in the few programs in optical technology offered by vocational-technical institutes or trade schools. These programs have classes in optical theory, surfacing and lens finishing, and the reading and applying of prescriptions. Programs vary in length from 6 months to 1 year and award certificates or diplomas.

Other qualifications. A high degree of manual dexterity, good vision, and the ability to recognize very fine color shadings and variations in shape also are necessary for dental technicians. An artistic aptitude for detailed and precise work also is important.

Certification and advancement. Voluntary certification for orthotic and prosthetic technicians is available through the American Board for Certification in Orthotics and Prosthetics (ABC). Applicants are eligible for an exam after completing a program accredited by NCOPE or obtaining 2 years of experience as a technician under the direct supervision of an ABC-certified practitioner. After successfully passing the appropriate exam, technicians receive the Registered Orthotic Technician, Registered Prosthetic Technician, or Registered Prosthetic-Orthotic Technician credential. Certification may help those orthotic and prosthetic technicians seeking to advance.

With additional formal education, medical appliance technicians who make orthotics and prostheses can advance to become orthotists or prosthetists, technicians who work with patients who need braces, artificial limbs, or related devices and help to determine the specifications for those devices.

In large dental laboratories, dental technicians may become supervisors or managers. Experienced technicians may teach or take jobs with dental suppliers in such areas as product development, marketing, and sales. Opening one’s own laboratory is another, and more common, way to advance and earn more.


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