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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

Job Outlook

Overall, slower-than-average growth is expected for employment of medical, dental, and ophthalmic laboratory technicians. However, job opportunities should be favorable because few people seek these positions.

Employment change. Overall employment for these occupations is expected to grow five percent from 2006 to 2016, slower than the average for all occupations.

Medical appliance technicians will grow at nine percent, about as fast as the average for all occupations, because of the increasing prevalence of the two leading causes of limb loss—diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In addition, advances in technology may spur demand for prostheses that allow for greater movement.

Employment of dental laboratory technicians is expected to grow more slowly than average, at four percent. During the last few years, demand has arisen from an aging public that is growing increasingly interested in cosmetic prostheses. For example, many dental laboratories are filling orders for composite fillings that are the same shade of white as natural teeth to replace older, less attractive fillings. However, job growth for dental laboratory technicians will be limited. The overall dental health of the population has improved because of fluoridation of drinking water and greater emphasis on preventive dental care, which has reduced the incidence of dental cavities. As a result, full dentures will be less common, as most people will need only a bridge or crown.

More on Clinical Lab Techs

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

Ophthalmic laboratory technicians are expected to experience employment growth of seven percent, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Demographic trends make it likely that many more Americans will need vision care in the years ahead. Not only will the population grow, but also the proportion of middle-aged and older adults is projected to increase rapidly. Middle age is a time when many people use corrective lenses for the first time, and elderly persons usually require more vision care than others. However, the increasing use of automated machinery will temper job growth for ophthalmic laboratory technicians.

Job prospects. Job opportunities for medical, dental, and ophthalmic laboratory technicians should be favorable, despite expected slower-than-average growth. Few people seek these jobs, reflecting the relatively limited public awareness and low starting wages. In addition to openings from job growth, many job openings also will arise from the need to replace technicians who transfer to other occupations or who leave the labor force.


Median hourly earnings of wage-and-salary medical appliance technicians were $14.99 in May 2006. The middle 50 percent earned between $11.34 and $19.65 an hour. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $8.93, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $27.00 an hour.

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