A Growing Demand for Skilled People

According to an article published in The Economist in March 2000, the Optics and Photonics industry is growing at an all time record for a technology. The global photonics components market alone has grown from less than 200 million dollars in 1995 to about 50 billion dollars in 2000, and it is expected to grow to roughly 200 billion dollars by 2010. And this is for components alone, whereas, as mentioned in Applications of Optics and Photonics, the even more important contribution of optics and photonics is in the secondary markets, at the systems and applications level.

The pervasive and far-reaching applications of this technology, along with its multidisciplinary characteristic, open tremendous career opportunities to qualified people in the field, careers that promise to be rewarding both on a professional and a material level. A degree in Applied Physics/Science/Engineering with a concentration in Optics and Photonics can lead to exciting and rewarding careers in many different fields. By all accounts, there aren’t enough qualified people to fill all the jobs requiring a solid optics and photonics education and training, from technicians to applications engineers, to technical managers and research staff. And this demand is only going to grow, as more and more applications of optics and photonics emerge.

Whether you plan to be a Physics, Chemistry, Bio-Chemistry, Computer Science, Electrical, Mechanical or Industrial Engineering major, you can also prepare yourself in the process to become a skilled optics and photonics professional. The career options are virtually limitless, as reflected by the examples below:

  • Physicist for Optical Metrology, performing Fourier Optics, Thin Film Metrology and semiconductor surface topography through Interferometry.
  • Electrical engineer in charge of the design of high-speed transceivers for optical communication.
  • Bio-chemist performing in vivo fluorescence and Raman spectroscopy on various cancer tumors.
  • Technical Consultanton emerging optical technologies for a patent attorney firm.
  • Technical Manager in a start-up company developing a new needle-free optical glucose monitoring device for people with diabetes.
  • Mechanical Engineer working in a team for the design of new automated systems for fiber alignment used in fiber-components manufacturing.
  • Computer Scientist working on new algorithms for 3D computer-vision object reconstruction based on structured light, for applications in reconstructive surgery.
  • Opto-Electronics Engineer in a company producing flat-panel displays for the broader markets.
  • Materials Engineer for a thin-film metal-organic chemical vapor deposition facility.
  • Optical Engineer working on the design and optimization of complex lenses for imaging systems.
  • Laser Applications and Support Engineer for high-power lasers for laser-assisted manufacturing.
  • Educator/Researcher at a university or national lab, advancing the field MEMS, nano-photonics and bio-photonics.
  • Highly knowledgeable science High-School Teacher advancing the cause of introducing optics and photonics in the high-school curriculum, and getting students excited about the wonderful field of Optics.
  • Technical Consultant for laser-light shows for the entertainment industry.
  • Whatever other application you could think of, for which you would like to harness the light and put it to work; build your own job description!

Photonics Spectra, a Laurin Publication and an authoritative source of information in the field of optics and photonics, publishes an annual survey of Jobs in Photonics, the most comprehensive survey in the field. For more details, visit

The content of this page was prepared by Dr. Corneliu Rablau, Associate Professor of Physics at Kettering University, Director of the Photonics and Fiber Optics Lab.