Overview | Specific
Work Activities | Common Work Activities | Related
Occupations | Skills and Abilities | Working
Conditions | Physical Demands | Knowledge
| Interests | Wages | Current
Employment | Outlook |
Helpful High School Courses | Preparation
| Related Educational Programs | Hiring Practices
| Licensing/Certification/Designation/Registration |
Advancement Opportunities | Additional
Sources of Information
- Work with lasers and fiber optics
- Often work in the telecommunications industry
- Are very good at math, physics, and science
- Sit for long periods of time
- Have at least a bachelor's degree
- Need a license
- Earn $96,400 per year (Hawaii median)
Photonics engineers design laser and fiber optic technology.
Photonics is the science of controlling and transmitting light. This is often accomplished by using laser or fiber optic technology.
Lasers and fiber optics technology has many uses:
- In medicine, surgeons use lasers for delicate surgery
- In manufacturing, lasers are used for sensing, marking, and cutting
- The military uses lasers to aim weapons accurately
- In telecommunications, lasers are used in computer networks
Most photonics engineers create new systems and devices that use optics and photonics. They develop prototypes (or models) and test their designs. Engineers in this field spend a lot of time testing system performance to make sure a system or product works effectively and efficiently.
Photonic engineers usually specialize in one of three areas:
- Solving problems relating to light sources in fiber optics
- Refining the purity of optical fibers
- Lasers and laser optics
Because this is a growing field, photonics engineers also spend a lot of time keeping up to date with new developments in optics and laser technology.
Specific Work Activities
The following list of occupational tasks is specific to photonics
- Design, build, or test photonic systems and parts.
- Create optical or imaging systems. This includes optical imaging products, components, processes, and photonic crystals.
- Test system performance or requirements.
- Write reports or research proposals.
- Make experimental photonics ready for day to day use.
- Develop and test photonic systems that perform faster or use less energy.
- Perform tests to find the capabilities of systems or parts.
- Design solar energy photonics, optical sensing or imaging systems.
- Read new reports, talk with colleagues, train, or go to conferences to learn about changes in the field.
- Reduce power use in factories by testing new photonic sensors for use in making products.
Photonics engineers perform the following list of tasks, but the
tasks are common to many occupations.
- Analyze data or information.
- Process information.
- Make decisions and solve problems.
- Get information needed to do the job.
- Use computers.
- Estimate sizes, quantities, time, cost, or
- Think creatively.
- Update and use job-related knowledge.
- Communicate with supervisors, peers, or subordinates.
- Identify objects, actions, and events.
- Provide information or drawings about devices,
equipment, or structures.
- Document and record information.
- Evaluate information against standards.
- Organize, plan, and prioritize work.
- Explain the meaning of information to others.
- Develop goals and strategies.
- Monitor events, materials, and surroundings.
- Communicate with people from outside the organization.
- Establish and maintain relationships.
- Schedule work and activities.
- Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics
Hawaii Career Pathways:
- Industrial & Engineering Technology
Related O*NET Specialties:
Photonics engineers need to:
- Express ideas clearly when speaking or writing.
- Understand spoken and written information.
Reason and Problem Solve
- Use reasoning to discover answers to problems.
- Develop rules or follow guidelines when arranging
items in a certain order.
- Notice when something is wrong or is likely
to go wrong.
- Combine several pieces of information and draw
- Think of new ideas or original and creative
ways to solve problems.
- Concentrate and not be distracted while performing
Use Math and Science
- Choose a mathematical method or
formula to solve problems.
Perceive and Visualize
- Imagine how something will look if it is moved
around or its parts are rearranged.
- Identify a pattern (a figure, object, word,
or sound) that is hidden in distracting material.
- Quickly and accurately compare letters, numbers,
objects, pictures, or patterns.
In a typical work setting, photonics engineers:
- Have a medium level of interaction with others.
- Communicate with people daily by telephone,
e-mail, and in person.
- Write letters and memos on a weekly basis.
- Work as part of a project team.
- Are somewhat responsible for work outcomes
or the work done by others.
- Are somewhat responsible for the health and
safety of other workers.
Physical Work Conditions
wear protective or safety attire.
- May work
within a few feet of others, such as when sharing an office.
- Must make sure that their work is exact and
accurate. Errors can cost time and money and delay the completion of a project.
- Rarely consult a supervisor before making a
decision or setting tasks and goals.
- Meet strict weekly and monthly deadlines. This
makes the work atmosphere somewhat competitive.
- Monthly make decisions that impact coworkers
and their company.
Hours / Travel
- Usually work a standard work week, but overtime
is common when deadlines are near.
Photonics engineers frequently:
- Sit for long periods of time.
- Use their hands to handle, control, or feel
objects, tools, or controls.
It is important for photonics engineers
to be able to:
- See details of objects whether they are nearby
or far away.
- Speak clearly so listeners can understand.
- Understand the speech of another person.
- See differences between colors, shades, and
It is not as important, but still necessary, for photonics
engineers to be able to:
- Use fingers or hands to grasp, move, or assemble
very small objects.
- Hold the arm and hand in one position or hold
the hand steady while moving the arm.
- Make quick, precise adjustments to machine controls.
- Determine the distance between objects.
- Hear sounds and recognize the difference between
- Move two or more limbs together (for example,
two arms, two legs, or one leg and one arm) while remaining in place.
- See objects in very bright or glaring light.
- Focus on one source of sound and ignore others.
- Choose quickly and correctly among various movements
when responding to different signals.
Photonics engineers need knowledge in the following areas:
- Engineering and Technology: Knowledge of how
to build machines, buildings, and other things. Also includes knowledge of
how to use computers, machines, and tools to do work more usefully.
- Physics: Knowledge of the features and rules
of matter and energy. Areas of knowledge include air, water, light, heat,
weather, and other natural events.
- Design: Knowledge of making and using plans,
blueprints, drawings, and models.
- Mathematics: Knowledge of the rules and uses
of numbers. Areas of knowledge include arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and
- Computers and Electronics: Knowledge of computer
hardware and software.
- English Language: Knowledge of the meaning,
spelling, and use of the English language.
- Production and Processing: Knowledge of how
products are made and supplied.
- Mechanical: Knowledge of designing, using, and
repairing machines and tools.
Photonics engineers are people who tend to:
- Consider achievement important. They like to
see the results of their work and to use their strongest abilities. They like
to get a feeling of accomplishment from their work.
- Consider independence important. They like to
make decisions and try out ideas on their own. They prefer jobs where they
can plan their work with little supervision.
- Consider good working conditions important.
They like jobs offering steady employment and good pay. They want employment
that fits their individual work style. They may prefer doing a variety of
tasks, working alone, or being busy all the time.
- Consider recognition important. They like to
work in jobs which have opportunities for them to advance, be recognized for
their work, and direct and instruct others. They usually prefer jobs in which
they are looked up to by others.
- Have investigative interests. They like work
activities that have to do with ideas and thinking. They like to search for
facts and figure out solutions to problems mentally.
- Have realistic interests. They like work activities
that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They like to work
with plants, animals, and physical materials such as wood, tools, and machinery.
They often prefer to work outside.
- Have conventional interests. They like work
activities that follow set procedures, routines, and standards. They like
to work with data and detail. They prefer working where there is a clear line
of authority to follow.
Occupational Interest Codes:
Wage information is not available specifically for photonics engineers. However, they are part of the larger group of "engineers, all other."
Wages vary by employer and area of the country. The engineer's level of training, experience, and responsibility also affect wages.
Photonics engineers who work full time usually receive benefits. Typical benefits include sick leave, paid vacation, and health insurance. Some employers also provide a retirement plan.
Engineers, all other
The number of photonics
engineers employed in Hawaii and nationally is not available.
- Engineering firms
- Federal government agencies
In Hawaii, outlook information is not available specifically for photonics engineers. However, they are included in a larger group of "engineers, all other." Little change in employment growth for workers in this group is expected through the year 2020.
Nationally, employment of workers in this group is expected to grow slower than average through 2020.
The table below provides information about the number of workers in this occupation in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.
Engineers, all other
In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from our state's graduation requirements. Click here for public school graduation requirements for the Class of 2014 and 2015. Click here for the graduation requirements for the Class of 2016 and beyond.
If you attend a private school, check with your school counselor for graduation
requirements. Photonics engineers use math and science frequently. Try to take
math classes through Trigonometry and science classes through Physics.
Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this
You should also consider taking some advanced courses
in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate
(IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses,
you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen
your college application.
- Blueprint Reading
- Computer Applications
- Computer Science
The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high
school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or
parent about the courses you are considering taking.
You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if
work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community.
These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work
experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school
experiences with real-life work.
Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization
that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new
friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to
a future career. Click here for examples of activities
and groups that may be available in your high school or community.
To work as a photonics engineer, you typically need to:
- have a high school diploma or GED;
- have at least a bachelor's degree; and
- have a license.
Education after high school
Photonics engineers need at least a bachelor's degree in photonics
or optical engineering. Some work in this field with a degree in electronic
engineering or physics. Engineering programs take four to five years to complete.
It is becoming common for workers in this field to receive a
master’s degree in photonics engineering. Because this field is complex, some
employers favor advanced degrees.
You should consider participating in an internship with an engineering
firm while you are in college. An internship offers you a chance to apply what
you have learned in the classroom to a work situation. It also allows you to
build skills and make contacts with people in the field.
Many laser and fiber optics engineering companies have their
own testing labs. Getting a summer job in an "in house" laboratory is a good
way to gain experience and make contacts.
It is common for newly hired photonics engineers to receive
some on-the-job training. This varies by employer, and can last anywhere from
one to six months.
- Electrical/Electronics Technologies
Most employers require that photonics engineers have at least
a bachelor's degree in engineering. Many employers will require a master's degree.
Employers also look for people with strong communication, computer, and technical
skills. Certification or licensing may also be required.
/ Certification / Designation / Registration
In Hawaii, engineers (except those employed by the federal government)
whose work involves the safety or health of the public must be licensed by the
Hawaii board of professional engineers, architects, surveyors, and landscape
architects. In Hawaii, licenses are offered in seven disciplines of engineering
which include agriculture, chemical, civil, electrical, industrial, mechanical,
and structural. Licensure requires meeting educational and experience requirements,
passing an exam, and paying fees.
Photonics engineers advance by becoming licensed. After graduation,
engineers usually take an exam on the fundamentals of engineering. Next, photonics
engineers work under the supervision of a licensed professional engineer for
a period of years that is determined by the state board of examiners. Once they
have met the work experience requirements, they can take another exam to become
a professional engineer.
Once photonics engineers pass the professional exam and get
licensed, they have many options for advancement. They may be given more complex
projects and be assigned as the lead engineer. They may move into management
positions. Professional photonics engineers can also start their own consulting
Additional Sources of
Career Information Available on the Internet
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Industrial Relations, State of Hawaii. All Rights Reserved.