Photonics Engineer
How to Become a

Photonics Engineer

The complete career guide to be a Photonics Engineer: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $98,150
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 3.9%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • Creativity Focused
    Career Attribute

Photonics Engineers are individuals that design the technologies specializing in light formation or energy, such as laser or fiber optics technology.  They then use this light to detect, generate and/or transmit information and data.

Recommended Schools

What is a Photonics Engineer?

The following responsibilities are common for Photonics Engineers:

  • Research advanced engineering designs and specs for applications
  • Tests performance of electronic, mechanical or integrated systems and equipment
  • Analyzes operational data to evaluate operations, processes and products
  • Designs and develops electronic instruments and computer equipment
  • Identifies new applications for existing technologies and systems

 Day In The Life

Phonics Engineers work in the design, development, production and use of fiber optics and laser technologies.  Photonics is the science of generating light for energy and detecting or transmitting information.

Individuals working in this industry design and modify laser equipment or the components and the testing of laser systems.  They may also use these lasers for a variety of other applications such as medical, telecommunications and defense purposes as well as in manufacturing and construction.

In the medical field, lasers are used in diagnostic and treatment procedures as well as preforming small and delicate surgeries on areas of the body like the eye or the heart.  In the manufacturing and construction industries, laser are used for aligning, drilling, cutting through metal, plastics and other hard surfaces.  In the military, lasers are often used for tracking, and weapon and missile target navigation.  In telecommunication, fiber optics are replacing the wire cables often used because they last longer and are easier to maintain. These engineers are concerned with controlling the lights wavelength intensity and duration.

Typical Work Schedule

This is a full-time position, in an office or laboratory environment.  Depending on the employees projects and deadlines, some overtime may be required.

Projected Job Growth

The fiber optics and laser field are growing rapidly.  There is currently a shortage of trained individuals in this particular field so the demand for trained personnel is in high demand.

Typical Employers

Typical employers would include, government agencies, telecommunications businesses, manufacturing and construction companies and healthcare facilities.

Career Progression

Advancement opportunities in this career depends largely on education, ability and experience.  Most engineers begin as assistants to an experienced engineer.  As they gain experience, they can become supervisors, or specialize in a certain aspect of laser or fiber optic technology.  Some engineers then advance to management positions.  While a few engineers with the necessary and proper education and experience, can become research directors or principle engineers.

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How To Become a Photonics Engineer

A student can begin their training as a photonics engineer as early as high school by completing advanced courses in mathematics and science.  Advanced classes in algebra and physics, as well as learning how to read blueprints, are all great ways for a student to prepare for college courses.

A minimum of a bachelor’s degree in photonics engineering or a related field is required to begin in the career.  Coursework should include classes in sciences, mathematics, physics, and calculus.  This degree will take anywhere from 3 to 5 years to complete.  A significant amount of on the job training is also required for this field.  Other skills students and future employees should be proficient at are comprehension skills and critical thinking skills.  To become a competent engineer they must have several years of on-the-job training and work related experience.  They must also be proficient in computer technologies like computer-aided design or CAD and computer-aided manufacturing or CAM.

Individuals pursuing this career field should have a keen interest in working with light engineering.  They must also have a strong aptitude for mathematics and physics.  These individuals must also have meticulous problem-solving abilities and have the ability to work well in a team or group.  They must also participate in continuing education courses after graduation to stay current with technology.

Photonics Engineer Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

Low Range




High Range


National Hourly Wage

Low Range




High Range


How do Photonics Engineer salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Photonics Engineer's can make an average annual salary of $98,150, or $47 per hour. On the lower end, they can make $70,960 or $34 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #71 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Average Salary Nationally

Programs and Degrees

Here are the most common degrees for becoming a Photonics Engineer. a is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.

Highest Education Among Photonics Engineers

  • 7.3%   Doctorate
  • 28%   Masters
  • 48.1%   Bachelors
  • 6.7%   Associates
  • 7.6%   College
  • 2.2%   High School
  • 0.2%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does Photonics Engineer job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 5,400 jobs for a total of 142,300 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 3.9% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Above Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #482 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Avg. Growth Nationally

What Companies Employ The Most Photonics Engineers

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Federal government, excluding postal service 28,900 -2,800 -3%
Engineering services 12,200 1,400 1%
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 8,900 2,900 3%

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