Medical, Dental and Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians - Career Opportunities
Medical appliance technicians fabricate, fit, maintain, and repair orthopedic braces,
artificial limbs, joints, arch supports, and other surgical and medical appliances.
Dental laboratory technicians construct and maintain crowns, bridges, dentures, and
other dental prosthetics as prescribed by a dentist.
Ophthalmic laboratory technicians make prescription eyeglass or contact lenses.
There are about 90,000 U.S. jobs for medical, dental, and ophthalmic laboratory
technicians. Sixty percent of salaried jobs are in medical equipment and supply
manufacturing laboratories, which usually are small and privately owned.
Most such technicians learn their craft on the job; however, many employers prefer to
hire those with formal training in a related field. There are four programs accredited
by the National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education (NCOPE). They offer either
an associate degree or a one-year certificate. Courses include human anatomy and physiology,
orthotic and prosthetic equipment and materials, and applied biomechanical principles.
Training in dental laboratory technology is available through community and junior
colleges, vocational-technical institutes, and the U.S. Armed Forces. Formal training
programs vary greatly both in length and in the level of skill they impart.
Voluntary certification is available through the American Board for Certification in
Orthotics and Prosthetics (ABC). Applicants are eligible for an exam after completing a
program accredited by NCOPE or obtaining two years of experience as a technician under the
direct supervision of an ABC-certified practitioner.
Graduates of 2-year training
programs for Dental Laboratory Technicians need additional hands-on experience to become
The National Board for Certification, established by the National Association of Dental
Laboratories, offers certification in dental laboratory technology. Certification is voluntary.
Medical, dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians must be able to:
• read prescriptions or detailed information
• fill prescriptions as a dental laboratory technician
• pay attention to detail
• be very dexterous
• have good vision
• have artistic aptitude
Although there is expected to be slower-than-average growth in overall employment in
the near future, job opportunities should still be favorable. Most job openings will arise
from replacing technicians who transfer to other occupations or who leave the labor force.