Education and Training Requirements
In high school, you can prepare for this career by taking four years of English and at least two years of mathematics, one of which should be algebra. At least one year of physical science, preferably physics, should be included, as well as classes in computer programming and computer-aided design. Machine shop, basic electronics, and blueprint reading classes are also useful.
Most laser technicians enter the field after attending a two-year program in laser technology at a vocational, technical, or community college. The average associate's degree program in laser technology includes intensive technical and scientific study, with more hours spent in a laboratory or work situation than in the actual classroom. This hands-on experience is supplemented in the first year by courses in intermediate algebra, precalculus, physics, computer-aided drafting, diagramming, basic electronics, electronic instrumentation and calibration, electronic circuits and systems, electromechanical controls, and computer programming.
The second year of study might include courses in geometrical optics, applied optics, digital circuits, microwaves, laser and electro-optic components, devices and measurements, vacuum techniques, fiber optics systems and devices, technical report writing, microcomputers, and computer hardware. Special laser projects are often a part of the second year and can help you decide on a specific field. Even after completing your education, you will probably require further training in the specific practices of your employers.
Other Education or Training
Keeping your skills up to date is key to success as a laser technician. Several associations provide continuing education (CE) opportunities for technicians. The Laser Institute of America, for example, offers online courses on industrial laser safety, medical applications for lasers, and other topics. The Fiber Optic Association offers Fiber U, an online learning Web site that helps technicians prepare for certification exams or simply increase their level of knowledge. Some of its recent study programs focused on the basics of fiber optics, premises cabling, and fiber optic testing. The Optical Society also provides CE classes and seminars. Contact these organizations for more information.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
Voluntary certification for laser technicians who repair medical equipment is available from the National Council on Laser Certification. The Board of Laser Safety and the Fiber Optic Association also provides certification. Contact these organizations for more information.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
There is no way to obtain direct experience in laser technology and fiber optics while in high school, but a solid background in mathematics, shop, and science will be helpful. Participating in internships and co-ops while in college will also provide useful experience.
You must have an interest in instruments, laboratory apparatus, and how devices and systems work. Written and oral communication skills are very important since you often have to work closely with people of varied technological backgrounds.
Physical strength is not usually required, but good manual dexterity and hand-eye and body coordination are quite important. Because lasers can be extremely dangerous, you must be careful, attentive, and willing to follow safety precautions closely. The ability to work efficiently, patiently, and consistently is extremely important, as is the ability to solve problems and do careful, detailed work.