Engineering Career Resources

Optical Engineer Job Description

Optical Engineer Job Description

An optical engineer, sometimes also known as the electro-optical engineer, studies and works with optics, and applies his or her knowledge of the characteristics and behaviors of light to design instruments such as microscopes, lenses, telescopes, and devices that use optical sensors or measurement systems. These devices include fiber optic communication systems, lasers, and other light sensitive and light emitting equipment and tools that can be applied across a wide range of industries. Optical engineers are typically responsible for designing optical components and electronic circuitry and ensuring that they all meet a given set of specifications. They also determine the methods of maintenance and repair for the components they design, and are usually involved in the project from the development stage to testing. They will occasionally also be involved in the assembly stage and advise manufacturers during the production process.

Skills and qualifications

In order to become an optical engineer, one must have strong technical knowledge and good analytical skills. Optical engineers must have an excellent knowledge of engineering, math and physics, and a good understanding of the technology and materials they use.

Computer skills are a must, as optical engineers typically use them for design and simulation among other things. There is a wide range of optical software designed for different applications within the field, and those seeking to pursue a career in optical engineering must be familiar with it.

Good teamwork and people skills are important, as optical engineers usually work closely with other engineers, technical staff and vendors.

This career is a mix of science and math so an academic background in both of those subjects is essential. In addition, one will need a bachelor’s degree and sometimes a master’s degree in engineering or a related field to become an optical engineer. Specific training is needed after one is hired as an optical engineer to keep one’s knowledge of the field fresh. 


An optical engineer will usually develop and use light and laser instruments in order to do research or to perform a specific job. He or she will typically be conducting research on the development and design of optical components, and each company will have a different set of goals for the engineers.

Optical engineers conduct research without which many of the medical laser procedures would not be possible. An optical engineer will not only study the properties of light, but he or she will design instruments used to study light such as lenses and lasers. Optical engineers will apply the science of light to their work in order to see what they can design and use for their company. An optical engineer must also be responsible for the maintenance of his or her instruments and equipment.

As far a typical workday, an optical engineer has many responsibilities. Typically, he or she will have an office and laboratory where they design their work, but they may also travel to other offices and work with other engineers. Usually, optical engineers will work together as a team to meet their company’s specific goals.