What does an Optical Engineer do?

Optical engineers research, design, and test devices that use cameras, lasers, microscopes, and refractometers. They use light properties and other materials to produce, control, and manipulate light for use in high-tech devices. They work in agriculture, aerospace, lighting, textiles, and design and test object devices used in scientific instruments or optomechanical equipment. Optical engineers might also work with observatories, helping to maintain telescopes and test other astronomical instruments.

Optical engineers are responsible for developing and prototyping optical systems for commercial high-speed free-space communication systems and performing data collection and analysis of test links and field trials. They apply optics concepts to research, design, and develop applications in many areas and study the way light is produced, transmitted, detected, and measured to determine how to use it. Optical engineers need a minimum bachelor's degree in science with a concentration in physical objects, geometrical objects, optical communication systems, or related fields.

What responsibilities are common for Optical Engineer jobs?
  • Design, develop, build and test systems and products based on optic, photonic and laser technologies.
  • Partner with audit teams to ensure accurate inventory and documentation.
  • Direct support personnel in the preparation of detailed design, design testing and prototype fabrication.
  • Specify, select, and qualify active and passive optical components, develop and benchmarking system performance models, develop and implementing test procedures, and evaluate and select appropriate test instrumentation.
  • Network with senior internal and external personnel in own area of expertise.
  • Receive general instructions on routine work and detailed instructions on new projects.
  • Conduct feasibility studies and test on new and modified designs.
  • Write detailed procedures for metrology operations and equipment use.
  • Lead teams of engineers and technicians in the pursuit of program goals, and complete tasks according to schedule, budget and design objectives.
  • Collect, process, and analyze camera images and 3D depth data for a variety of imaging and depth sensors.
  • Support analysis of collected data and helps prepare detailed procedures and reports.
  • Innovate, develop and solve requests for new electro-optical equipment.
  • Create test protocols, test parts, and create test fixtures.
  • Test incoming elements and components for production of new/existing products.
  • Maintain accountability for data collection systems and computing resources assigned to project.
  • Monitor safety conditions of lab facilities and advise supervisor on deficiencies and problems.
  • Contribute to the creation of monitors, alerts, dashboards and metrics to drive continuous improvements.
  • Identify areas for automation and create or participate in the solution with scripting or coding skills.
  • Exercises judgment within defined procedures and practices to determine appropriate action.
  • Some positions may require occasional repetitive motion or movements of the wrists, hands, and/or fingers.
What are the typical qualifications for Optical Engineer jobs?
  • Bachelor's or Graduate's Degree in optical engineering, computer science or engineering.
  • Experience with MATLAB, CAD, GIS, DFMA, R Language, and C software and systems.
  • Is a collaborator with an eye on root cause analysis.
  • Comfortable problem solving.
  • Fluency in systems development and algorithm design.
  • Can collaborate with others.
Work/Life Balance
3.6 ★
Total Pay--
Career Opportunity
3.6 ★
Avg. Experience2-4 years

How much does an Optical Engineer make?

$150,088 /yr
Total Pay

Base Pay


Additional Pay


 / yr
Most Likely Range
Possible Range
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Optical Engineer Career Path

Learn how to become an Optical Engineer, what skills and education you need to succeed, and what level of pay to expect at each step on your career path.

Optical Engineer

Years of Experience Distribution

0 - 1
2 - 4
5 - 7
Not including years spent in education and/or training

Optical Engineer Insights

Read what Optical Engineer professionals have to say about their job experiences and view top companies for this career.
Kutumbh CareKutumbh Care
Fiber Engineer
Jul 1, 2021

“You get leave encashment and earn some money yearly for good attendance.No other pro I ve really found.”

Optical Engineer
Feb 16, 2021

“Good opportunities to learn and advance your career”

Lumentum OperationsLumentum Operations
Senior Laser Engineer
Mar 4, 2021

“No work and life balance.”

Appasamy Ocular DevicesAppasamy Ocular Devices
Optical Engineer
Jul 20, 2021

“Good research and development wing.”

The Johns Hopkins UniversityThe Johns Hopkins University
Optical Engineer
Sep 23, 2022

“Late nights and salary disparity.”

Fibre Optics Engineer
Dec 13, 2020

“Salary review is not linear”

NASA Jet Propulsion LaboratoryNASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Optical Engineer - III
Jul 27, 2021

“The best people work here”

Optics Engineer
Aug 16, 2022

“Compensation is good”

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Optical Engineer Interviews

Frequently asked questions about the roles and responsibilities of an Optical Engineer

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Optical Engineer Jobs