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Dental and Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians and Medical Appliance Technicians

Summary

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Quick Facts: Dental and Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians and Medical Appliance Technicians
2021 Median Pay $39,090 per year
$18.79 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Moderate-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2021 73,300
Job Outlook, 2021-31 2% (Slower than average)
Employment Change, 2021-31 1,400

What Dental and Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians and Medical Appliance Technicians Do

Dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians make or repair dentures, eyeglasses, prosthetics, and related products.

Work Environment

Dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians usually work in clean, well-lighted spaces and may spend time standing or bending. Most work full time, and schedules may vary.

How to Become a Dental or Ophthalmic Laboratory Technician or Medical Appliance Technician

To enter the occupation, dental or ophthalmic laboratory technicians or medical appliance technicians typically need at least a high school diploma or equivalent. They typically receive on-the-job training to attain competency.

Pay

The median annual wage for dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians was $39,090 in May 2021.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians is projected to grow 2 percent from 2021 to 2031, slower than the average for all occupations.

Despite limited employment growth, about 9,900 openings for dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Most of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Dental and Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians and Medical Appliance Technicians Do About this section

Ophthalmic laboratory technicians
Ophthalmic laboratory technicians often use automated equipment to make lenses.

Dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians make or repair dentures, eyeglasses, prosthetics, and related products.

Duties

Dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians typically do the following:

  • Read and follow detailed work orders and prescriptions
  • Bend, form, and shape material for appliances or devices
  • Polish and shape appliances and devices, using handtools or power tools
  • Adjust appliances or devices to allow for a natural look or to improve function
  • Inspect the final product for quality and accuracy
  • Repair damaged appliances and devices

Technicians’ duties vary, depending on their employer. In small offices and retail establishments, technicians may handle every phase of production. In large manufacturing and wholesale facilities, technicians may be responsible for only one phase of production, such as polishing, measuring, or testing.

Dental laboratory technicians use impressions or molds of a patient’s teeth to create crowns, bridges, dentures, and other dental appliances. They work closely with dentists but have limited contact with patients.

Dental laboratory technicians work with small handtools, such as files and polishers, and with many different materials, including wax, alloy, ceramic, plastic, and porcelain. Technicians also use computer programs and three-dimensional printers to create dental appliances and restorations.

Dental laboratory technicians may specialize in one or more of the following: orthodontic appliances, crowns and bridges, complete dentures, partial dentures, implants, or ceramics. Technicians may have different job titles, depending on their specialty. For example, technicians who make ceramic restorations such as veneers and bridges, are called ceramists.

Ophthalmic laboratory technicians make prescription eyeglasses and contact lenses. They are also commonly known as optical laboratory technicians.

Ophthalmic laboratory technicians typically use automated equipment to make lenses. Some technicians manufacture lenses for optical instruments, such as telescopes and binoculars. Ophthalmic laboratory technicians should not be confused with dispensing opticians, who work with customers to select eyewear and may prepare work orders for ophthalmic laboratory technicians.

Medical appliance technicians construct and repair medical supportive devices, such as hearing aids or leg braces. They use many different types of materials, such as metal, plastic, and leather.

Medical appliance technicians who create orthoses (braces, supports, and other devices) and prostheses (replacement limbs and facial parts) are sometimes referred to as orthotic and prosthetic technicians or O&P technicians.

Medical appliance technicians should not be confused with hearing aid specialists or orthotists and prosthetists, who work directly with patients. However, technicians may work closely with these other specialists to ensure proper fit or to repair devices.

Work Environment About this section

dental laboratory technicians image
Medical appliance technicians construct and repair medical supportive devices, including prosthetic limbs.

Dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians held about 73,300 jobs in 2021. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians was distributed as follows:

Dental laboratory technicians 36,700
Ophthalmic laboratory technicians 20,200
Medical appliance technicians 16,400

The largest employers of dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians were as follows:

Medical equipment and supplies manufacturing 58%
Health and personal care stores 7
Offices of dentists 6
Offices of optometrists 5
Professional and commercial equipment and supplies merchant wholesalers 4

Technicians may be exposed to health and safety hazards when handling certain materials. Workers typically wear protective equipment, such as goggles, gloves, or masks, to protect themselves from injury. They may spend a great deal of time standing or bending.

Work Schedules

Most dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians work full time, and schedules may vary.

How to Become a Dental or Ophthalmic Laboratory Technician or Medical Appliance Technician About this section

Dental laboratory technicians
Dental laboratory technicians need dexterity to work with precision instruments.

To enter the occupation, dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians typically need at least a high school diploma or equivalent. They typically receive on-the-job training to attain competency.

Education

Dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians typically need at least a high school diploma or equivalent. High school students interested in becoming a dental or ophthalmic laboratory technician or medical appliance technician may benefit from taking classes in science, mathematics, and art.

Employers may prefer to hire candidates who have a postsecondary certificate or associate’s degree. Some community colleges and technical schools offer programs in dental or ophthalmic laboratory technology in which students gain experience completing specific tasks, such as surfacing and finishing prescription eyewear. Community colleges and technical schools also may offer programs in medical appliance technology fields, such as orthotics and prosthetics technology.

Most dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians learn their skills through on-the-job training. They may begin as helpers and learn more advanced skills as they gain experience. For example, dental laboratory technicians may start out making models from impressions and progress to designing and fabricating crowns and bridges.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Although optional, certification may demonstrate a level of competence and professionalism that makes candidates more attractive to employers. It also may increase opportunities for advancement.

The National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology offers certification as a Certified Dental Technician (CDT). Certification is available in six specialty areas: orthodontics, crown and bridge, complete dentures, partial dentures, implants, and ceramics. To qualify for the CDT, technicians must pass several exams and meet education, training, or experience requirements.

The American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics & Pedorthics offers certification for orthotic and/or prosthetic technicians. Technicians are eligible for the certification exam after completing an accredited program or if they have experience as a technician under the direct supervision of a certified orthotist or prosthetist or O&P technician.

Some employers prefer that ophthalmic laboratory technicians obtain certification from the American Board of Opticianry and National Contact Lens Examiners (ABO-NCLE) prior to hiring or after completing on-the-job training. Basic certification is earned after passing an exam.

Advancement

In large facilities, dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians may work their way up to a supervisory level and train new technicians. Some go on to own their own laboratory.

Important Qualities

Detail oriented. Dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians must follow work orders and prescriptions precisely. They also need to be able to recognize and correct any imperfections in their work.

Dexterity. Dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians must work well with their hands to use precision instruments.

Interpersonal skills. Dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians must be able to work effectively with others. They may be part of a team of technicians working on a single project.

Problem-solving skills. Dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians may encounter challenges when constructing or repairing medical devices. They need to be resourceful in finding solutions.

Technical skills. Dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians need to understand how different tools and materials work. They also must know how to operate automated machinery and may need proficiency in design software.

Pay About this section

Dental and Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians and Medical Appliance Technicians

Median annual wages, May 2021

Total, all occupations

$45,760

Dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians

$39,090

Other production occupations

$37,710

 

The median annual wage for dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians was $39,090 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $29,230, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $62,730.

Median annual wages for dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians in May 2021 were as follows:

Dental laboratory technicians $45,770
Medical appliance technicians 45,280
Ophthalmic laboratory technicians 37,270

In May 2021, the median annual wages for dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Offices of dentists $46,640
Medical equipment and supplies manufacturing 39,730
Professional and commercial equipment and supplies merchant wholesalers 38,050
Health and personal care stores 35,970
Offices of optometrists 31,490

Most dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians work full time, and schedules may vary.

Job Outlook About this section

Dental and Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians and Medical Appliance Technicians

Percent change in employment, projected 2021-31

Total, all occupations

5%

Dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians

2%

Other production occupations

0%

 

Overall employment of dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians is projected to grow 2 percent from 2021 to 2031, slower than the average for all occupations.

Despite limited employment growth, about 9,900 openings for dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Most of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Projected employment of dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians varies by occupation (see table).

Demand for dental laboratory technicians is expected to be limited as 3D printing and other laborsaving technologies are increasingly used to produce dental parts and appliances.

The increasing number of older adults and an associated rise in age-related ailments will drive demand for medical appliance technicians. For example, these workers will be needed to produce supportive devices to help reduce pain and improve function for people with osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. Rising obesity rates in the general population will also translate into a greater need for orthoses. Meanwhile, the growing prevalence of diabetes, which may lead to limb loss, will spur demand for prosthetic care.

Demand for ophthalmic laboratory technicians should increase, because many people need vision correction at some point in their lives. As the population continues to increase, more people will need corrective eyewear, such as glasses and contact lenses, to address nearsightedness, astigmatism, and other eye problems.

Employment projections data for dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians, 2021-31
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2021 Projected Employment, 2031 Change, 2021-31 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians

51-9080 73,300 74,700 2 1,400 Get data

Dental laboratory technicians

51-9081 36,700 36,500 -1 -300 Get data

Medical appliance technicians

51-9082 16,400 17,300 5 900 Get data

Ophthalmic laboratory technicians

51-9083 20,200 20,900 4 700 Get data

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OEWS data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help on Entry-Level Education 2021 MEDIAN PAY Help on Median Pay
Opticians, dispensing Opticians

Opticians help fit eyeglasses and contact lenses, following prescriptions from ophthalmologists and optometrists.

High school diploma or equivalent $37,570
Optometrists Optometrists

Optometrists diagnose and treat visual problems and manage diseases, injuries, and other disorders of the eyes.

Doctoral or professional degree $124,300
Medical equipment repairers Medical Equipment Repairers

Medical equipment repairers install, maintain, and repair patient care equipment.

Associate's degree $49,910
Dentists Dentists

Dentists diagnose and treat problems with patients’ teeth, gums, and related parts of the mouth.

Doctoral or professional degree $163,220
Orthotists and prosthetists Orthotists and Prosthetists

Orthotists and prosthetists design and fabricate medical supportive devices and measure and fit patients for them.

Master's degree $75,440

Contacts for More Information About this section

For information about requirements for certification of dental laboratory technicians, visit

National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology

For information about career opportunities in commercial dental laboratories, visit

National Association of Dental Laboratories

For a list of accredited programs for ophthalmic laboratory technicians, visit

International Council of Accreditation

For a list of accredited programs for medical appliance technicians, visit

American Academy of Orthotists & Prosthetists

National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education

For information on requirements for certification of medical appliance technicians, visit

American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics & Pedorthics

American Board of Opticianry and National Contact Lens Examiners

CareerOneStop

For career videos on dental laboratory and medical appliance technicians, visit

Dental Laboratory Technicians

Medical Appliance Technicians

O*NET

Dental Laboratory Technicians

Medical Appliance Technicians

Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Dental and Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians and Medical Appliance Technicians,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/dental-and-ophthalmic-laboratory-technicians-and-medical-appliance-technicians.htm (visited November 27, 2022).

Last Modified Date: Tuesday, October 4, 2022

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. For most profiles, this tab has a table with wages in the major industries employing the occupation. It does not include pay for self-employed workers, agriculture workers, or workers in private households because these data are not collected by the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) survey, the source of BLS wage data in the OOH.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's CareerOneStop.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2021 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2021, the median annual wage for all workers was $45,760.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2021

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2021, which is the base year of the 2021-31 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2021-31

The projected percent change in employment from 2021 to 2031. The average growth rate for all occupations is 5 percent.

Employment Change, 2021-31

The projected numeric change in employment from 2021 to 2031.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2021-31

The projected numeric change in employment from 2021 to 2031.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2021 to 2031.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2021 to 2031.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2021 to 2031.

2021 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2021, the median annual wage for all workers was $45,760.