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Photonics Engineering Degree

Photonics engineers are primarily concerned with light and optical fibers as well laser technology which they then design, test, and improve. Photonics has applications across a wide range of fields such as telecommunications, defense, manufacturing, and even medicine.

If you are interested in pursuing a career in photonics engineering, you will need to satisfy certain educational qualifications based on your career aspirations. You will need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in photonics engineering or a related field to get an entry-level position in the field. For more advanced roles such as teaching or research and development, you will need to pursue an advanced qualification such as master’s or Ph.D.  

For more information about the field of photonics engineering and how to pursue a career in this field, read on.

What is photonics engineering?

Photonics engineering is a field which is concerned with the technical applications and uses of light. In this rapidly progressing technological age, photonics has a vast range of applications. It is used in everything from medical therapy, biology, and the creation of green technologies, communications, defense, and more.

Some of the duties of a photonics engineer include:

  • Design and test photonic instruments and components
  • Create optical systems and technologies
  • Carry out research to determine new photonic technologies
  • Prepare reports and research proposals in the field
  • Determine the applications of photonics in other fields
  • Design and test laser-machining equipment

How to become a photonics engineer

Becoming a photonics engineer requires advanced training in the field. At the undergraduate degree level you will need to enroll in a general engineering program or choose a specialty such as mechanical or electrical engineering. There are also programs in optical engineering and a few universities that offer dedicated programs in photonics engineering.

In order to take on advanced positions in the field, many employers require that applicants have extensive work experience and advanced degree qualifications. Therefore, it is worth considering pursuing a master’s degree in the field and gaining a significant amount of practical experience.

In general, for those looking to pursue photonics engineering, these are the steps you may want to take:

Steps to becoming a photonics engineer:

1. Enroll in a bachelor’s degree program in engineering with a concentration in optical, electrical, mechanical, or photonics engineering

2. Enroll in a graduate degree program in engineering with a concentration in optical, electrical, mechanical, or photonics engineering

3. Get relevant training and experience in the field of photonics engineering 

Bachelor’s degree in photonics engineering

At the undergraduate degree level, you will have a few options in terms of which degree to enroll in. While there are some universities which offer dedicated programs in photonics, they aren’t very common. You can also choose to enroll in an engineering program with a focus on optical, electrical or mechanical engineering.

These programs will provide you with all of the essential foundational knowledge and skills you need to understand photonics engineering. These degrees feature classwork as well as lab work.



Some of the courses offered

Bachelor’s degree in engineering with a concentration in photonics

, optical, electrical, or mechanical engineering

4 years

  • Mathematics
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Behavior of materials
  • Manufacturing System Design
  • Visual optics
  • Optical wave propagation
  • Biophotonics
  • Optical systems design
  • Light matter interaction 

Master’s degree in photonics engineering

While there are many employers that recruit applicants with only a bachelor’s degree in the field, there are a growing number of employers which now require a graduate degree in the field. There are numerous advantages of getting an advanced degree in the field, not least of which is the fact that your job prospects may improve markedly.

This degree will groom you to take on advanced and highly technical positions in the field. Many of these degrees offer students the chance to choose a specialization in the field to focus on and also involve theoretical and experimental projects as part of the curriculum. In some universities, these projects are carried out in collaboration with external industrial partners in the field.



Some of the courses offered

Master’s degree in photonics engineering

2 years

  • Signal Processing
  •  Engineering Mechanics of Materials
  • Electronic Properties of Materials
  • Optical Fiber Communication
  • Analog Circuit Design
  • Digital Circuits Design
  • Frontiers of optics and photonics
  • Laser engineering

Career prospects and salary

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not have a separate career profile for photonics engineering. Instead, it has a profile for ‘Engineers, All Others’ which covers all of the different branches of engineering not covered by the specific profiles on their website.

According to the data from BLS, as of May 2015, the annual median wage earned by professionals in this field was $95,900. This translates to about a mean hourly wage of $46.11. In terms of employment in the field at the time that these statistics were gathered, there were about 125,460 jobs.

Statistics also show that there are five industries with the highest levels of employment in this field. These include:


Annual Median Wage (May 2015)

Federal Executive Branch (OES Designation)


Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services


Scientific Research and Development Services


Employment Services


Aerospace Product and Parts Manufacturing


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