An optical engineer uses his knowledge of the properties of light to design and plan a range of optical technologies, processes, and products. If you want to become an optical engineer, you’ll usually have to finish high school in order to do so. You may then go on to college to earn a bachelor’s degree in optical engineering if you want to pursue this career. While you may become an optical engineer after earning an bachelor's degree, you may also consider going on to earn a master’s or doctoral degree. Having an advanced degree may help you gain access to more jobs, higher pay, and advancement opportunities.
In most cases, you’ll need to earn a high school diploma as your first step in becoming an optical engineer. You may prepare for college education by taking advanced science and math classes while you’re in high school. Science classes such as physics and chemistry, for example, may help you to prepare for this job. Math classes such as trigonometry, algebra, and calculus may provide a solid math foundation that may prove helpful as you complete college courses later. In lieu of earning a high school diploma, however, you may earn a general educational development (GED) diploma in preparation for this career.
Once in college, it would be ideal for you to earn a bachelor's degree in optical engineering. Some colleges do not offer this specific degree, however. For this reason, you may need to earn a bachelor’s degree in a related field. For example, you may become an optical engineer after earning a degree in electrical engineering or even in physics. In such a case, however, you may do well to pursue a specialization in optics to prepare for this career.
In most cases, you can finish college and become an optical engineer in about four years. If you opt to continue on to earn a master’s degree, however, you may need an additional couple of years to study. Earning a doctoral degree may add three to five years to your studies as well.
Some colleges include internships or cooperative study as part of their engineering programs. Such programs may help you gain not only knowledge, but also hands-on skills you can use when you secure a job. Regardless of whether you participate in such a program or not, you may find post-graduation work opportunities in a range of industries, including those involving cable television, telephone communication, and computer technology.