Careers in Photonics

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EXPLORING CAREERS IN LASERS, PHOTONICS, AND HOLOGRAPHY

laser patternNow that you've begun to explore the world of lasers & photonics, you may be wondering if this could fit in with your future career planning. Absolutely! In this section, I'll give you some information on things to consider when you're exploring careers in general. I'll also share some Internet resources that can guide you in your search for careers in the field of lasers and photonics.

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Frank DeFreitas
email or phone: 610-770-0341



Why Explore Careers

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Would you take a trip to a country you knew nothing about? Would you go to a college that you had never heard of without doing any research? Probably not. But many people decide on their future careers without knowing anything about them. Or, they decide on a career option, but discover when they get to college that they do not have the academic background to take the courses they need to graduate. Kind of gets in the way of your plans for the future, huh?

Here's a few easy steps to follow:




Career Exploration

Ask yourself these questions:

    What interests do I need to have to enjoy this job?
    Most of us get the greatest enjoyment out of doing things that interest us. A job is no different. Make sure that any career you select is one that fits in with your interests–the things you like to do.

People who enter the field of lasers & photonics generally enjoy:

Picture of CDROM
  • Figuring out how things work
  • Operating and/or fixing machines
  • Working with their hands, assembling, building, and/or repairing things
  • Planning and supervising a project
  • Drawing detailed plans or patterns and/or working with blueprints/designs
  • Courses in advanced mathematics, chemistry, physics
  • Working with others to solve a real-life problem
    What abilities do I need to do well at this job?
    Some of us are good with our hands, and some of us are not. Some of us have strong mathematical abilities, and some of us do not. Knowing where your natural strengths and abilities lie and how these fit into your career interests is an important component of career exploration.

People in laser/photonics/holography careers generally have:

  • An aptitude in math and/or science
  • The ability to communicate and get along well with others
  • Leadership skills & good judgement
  • The curiosity and ability to solve a problem with creativity
  • The ability to gather, analyze, and evaluate data
  • The ability to define, develop, and generate ideas and test these ideas through research and experimentation.

    Picture of ComputerWhat are my work values? What's important to me in a job?
    Do you want to make a lot of money? Have a flexible schedule? Work from home? Travel? Help people? Generally we are happiest with those jobs that fit in with the things that are important to us, so make sure that when you're looking at career options, you consider how the job will fit in to the things you value in life.

There are a lot of on-line resources that can help you identify your interests, abilities, and work values. Try:




Soft Skills

What are "soft skills"?

Soft skills are a set of skills that influence how we interact with each other. It includes such abilities as effective communication, creativity, analytical thinking, diplomacy, flexibility, change-readiness, and problem solving, leadership, team building, and listening skills. The goal of soft skill training is to give students opportunity to learn and practice new patterns of behavior and in so doing to enhance human relations.

VIDEOS: (download and use your media player).

Attentiveness

Auditory and Speech Ability

Basic Skills

Control Movement

Endurance

Fine Manipulative Movement

Flexibility, Balance, and Coordination

Idea Generation and Reasoning

Interpersonal Skills

Memory

Perceptual Ability

Personal Qualities

Physical Strength

Quantitative Ability

Reaction Time

Resource Management

Spatial Ability

Thinking Skills

Using Information

Using Systems

Using Technology

Verbal Ability

Visual Ability

Videos by the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration

 

Market Research

Once you've identified your interests, abilities, and work values, now you can begin to explore occupations that fit in with who you are. These are some of the issues you should explore:

    What jobs are available in the field? What does the job involve? What's the job description?
    Find out what job duties and responsibilities the job typically has. This can vary from company to company, so it's a good idea to not only look at generic job descriptions, but to also explore the descriptions for actual job openings.

Some of the jobs in the field of lasers, photonics, and holography include:

  • Physicists
  • Industrial Laser Technician
  • Medical Laser Technician
  • Designing & running laser light shows
  • Laser Manufacturing Technician
  • Optical Engineer
  • Fiber Optic Packaging Engineer
  • Optics/Laser Manufacturing Engineer
    What kind of educational background to I need for this job?
    In today's economy, most jobs have fairly high educational expectations. By some estimates, up to 80% of jobs requires some education beyond high school. When you explore a career, it's critically important that you look at the courses you must take in high school and college in order to be prepared for the occupation.

Most careers in the laser and photonics fields require at least a 2-year technical or associate's degree. Higher level positions in research or management generally require at least a bachelor's or master's degree.

    What's the job outlook?
    Is this a growing occupation? Will there be jobs available in the region of the country where I want to work? Will there be jobs in this occupation 10 years from now? Search for careers that have a strong outlook and look like they'll be around for a while.

Careers in lasers and photonics are what we call "emerging careers." Advances in the field are creating new job opportunities in a variety of industries, which may fuel extensive job growth.

    What are the salary & benefits ranges for this career?
    Naturally, you'll want to know how much money you can expect to make in this career. Just remember that salary ranges vary depending on the part of the country you're living in, the type of company you work for, and your level of education & experience.
    What is the work environment for the career?
    Will you be working indoors or outdoors? Will you work alone or with others? Is it shift work? Will you be working around loud machinery?
    What are the "advancement opportunities"?
    Most of us don't want to stay in the same job for the rest of our lives. Try to find out how you can progress in this career and what other jobs you could move into. Also find out what you need to advance. Experience? More education? Both?

To further explore answers to these questions, try these on-line resources:

    Optics.org —Photonics Resources for Scientists & Engineers (http://www.optics.org) Explore job listings to get an idea of job descriptions and job requirements. There is also an excellent library of articles on lasers and photonics.

 




Putting it All Together

Now that you've explored your interests, abilities, and work values, and taken a look at the careers that fit in with them, it's time to make some decisions. Here are some things to consider when you're making the decision:

  • Do you have the interest and ability to do well in the field?
  • Does the field require a college degree? If it does, have you taken the right courses in high school to enter a program? Are there college programs available to prepare you with the right skills?
  • Does this career pay enough to support the kind of lifestyle you want to lead?
  • Does it fit in with what's important to you in a job?
  • Will there be jobs available in the career when you graduate? Are the jobs in areas where you want to live?

If you can answer "yes" to most of these questions, then you've probably found yourself a career. Is it in lasers or photonics?




Photonics Resources on the Internet


Portions reprinted, updated and web enhanced from the book Shoebox Holography. Royalty-free, low-res photos from PhotoDisc sampler CDROM. Career Skills videos from USDOL, public domain. Laser light show pattern created and recorded by Frank DeFreitas.



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"Science is the study of the physical manifestations of God in action."
-- Frank DeFreitas

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