Optical Engineer


As an Optical Engineer, you will be performing research and developing products such as:

  • gas and solid state lasers
  • infrared devices

Work Activities

As an Optical Engineer, you will be performing research for specific clients. You will be performing research and developing products such as:

  • gas and solid state lasers
  • infrared devices
  • masers devices
  • light emitting and light sensitive devices

You will also be designing the electronic and optical components for these products. Having a high attention to detail is important – this is because you will be working with small and detailed specifications.

Supervision of other engineering and technical members of your team is also something that Optical Engineers take part in. You will be working with these members throughout the process to make sure that the components that you produce are sustainable and be able to be repaired properly and easily.

When the components have been produced, you will be testing these to make sure that they are the specification of the client and that they are safe.

Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.

Personal Qualities and Skills

To become an Optical Engineer, you will need:

  • careful measurement and analytical skills
  • a good eye for detail
  • great communication skills, so that you can work with a variety of different people
  • great IT skills
  • excellent problem solving skills
  • listening skills

Pay and Opportunities


The pay rates below are approximate:

  • Starting: £30,500 - £34,000
  • With experience: £37,000 - £45,500
  • Senior Optical Engineers earn £49,500 - £54,000

Hours of work

Most Optical Engineers work around 35-40 hours a week, Monday to Friday. However, early starts, late finishes and some weekend work may be required, especially as deadlines approach.

Where could I work?

Employers include Optic companies and service groups. Opportunities for Optical Engineers occur with employers in towns and cities throughout the UK.

Where are vacancies advertised?

Vacancies are advertised in local/national newspapers, on recruitment and employers' websites, and on Find a Job (www.gov.uk/jobsearch).

Social media websites, such as LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, are a great way to network, find vacancies and get in contact with possible employers. Make sure that your profile presents you in a professional manner that will appeal to potential employers.

Take a look at our General Information Article 'Finding Work Online'.

Entry Routes and Training

Entry routes

To become an Optical Engineer, you need to have degree in optical engineering. Other degrees include biomedical engineering, bioengineering, or electromechanical engineering.


To become an Optical Engineer, you could gain status from Chartered Engineer or Incorporated Engineer professions. This could make you stand out from the crowd!

To register as a Chartered Engineer or an Incorporated Engineer, you must join a professional engineering institution licensed by the Engineering Council. You will have to demonstrate commitment and competence to the course to register.

Routes to Chartered Engineering status include completing:

  • an accredited honours degree in engineering or technology, plus either an appropriate Masters degree or engineering Doctorate accredited by a professional engineering institution, or appropriate further learning to Masters level
  • or, an accredited integrated MEng degree

Routes to Incorporated Engineering status include completing:

  • an accredited Bachelors or honours degree in engineering or technology
  • or, an HNC, HND or foundation degree in engineering or technology, plus appropriate further learning to degree level
  • or, an NVQ level 4, which has been approved by a licensed engineering institution

A great way to get into this career is through an internship. Take a look at our information article 'Internships', for more details.

Work Experience

Previous experience within an engineering position (such as an electrical and mechanical) would be useful for this career.

Experience using computer aided design would also be really helpful to get into this career.


Depending on your level of qualification and experience, you can progress by taking on more responsibility for the management of engineering projects and teams of engineers.

You might choose to become self-employed or take contract work on a freelance basis.


To enter a degree course in optical engineering or related subject, the usual requirement is:

  • 3 A levels
  • GCSEs in your A level subjects at grade C/4 or above
  • a further 2/3 GCSEs at grade C/4 or above
  • at least 2 science subjects (from maths, physics or biology) are often required at A level
  • English, maths and a science subject are usually required at GCSE at grade C/4 or above

Please check college/university websites very carefully for their exact requirements.

Other qualifications, such as a relevant BTEC level 3 qualification, or the International Baccalaureate Diploma are often accepted.

Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A level.

Adult Opportunities

Age limits

It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.


If you don't have the qualifications needed to enter your chosen degree or HND course, a college or university Access course (eg, Access to Engineering) could be the way in.

These courses are designed for people who have not followed the usual routes into higher education. No formal qualifications are usually needed, but you should check this with individual colleges.

Teesside University offers a BEng (Hons) in Chemical Engineering, via part-time evening classes.

The University of Birmingham offers an MSc in Biochemical Engineering, by part-time study.


Information on pathways to registration as a Chartered (CEng) or Incorporated (IEng) Engineer can be found on the Engineering Council's website.


Funding for postgraduate courses is available through universities from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

Further Information

Apprenticeships: Get In. Go Far

National Apprenticeship Service (NAS)

Tel: 0800 015 0400

Email: nationalhelpdesk@findapprenticeship.service.gov.uk

Website: www.apprenticeships.org.uk


Skills for science, engineering and manufacturing technologies

Address: 14 Upton Road, Watford, Hertfordshire WD18 0JT

Tel: 0845 6439001

Email: customerservices@semta.org.uk

Website: www.semta.org.uk

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)

Address: Polaris House, North Star Avenue, Swindon SN2 1UH

Tel: 01793 413200

Email: webmaster@bbsrc.ac.uk

Website: www.bbsrc.ac.uk

Getting into Engineering Courses

Author: James Burnett Publisher: Trotman

Website: www.mpw.ac.uk/university-guides/getting-into/engineering-courses/

Engineering Council

Address: 246 High Holborn, London WC1V 7EX

Tel: 020 3206 0500

Website: www.engc.org.uk

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

Address: Polaris House, North Star Avenue, Swindon SN2 1ET

Tel: 01793 444000

Website: www.epsrc.ac.uk

Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE)

Address: Davis Building, Railway Terrace, Rugby CV21 3HQ

Tel: 01788 578214

Email: enquiries@icheme.org

Website: www.icheme.org

Careers Wales

Welsh enquiries

Tel: 0800 100900

Email: post@careerswalesgyrfacymru.com

Website: www.careerswales.com

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