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Photonics Engineering

Photonics Engineering

Photonics Engineering

I am considering going into photonics engineering. It looks very interesting to me (fiber optics and lasers), and it seems like a nice niche field that is experiencing growth.

I've done some research on it, but I wanted to see if there were any photonic engineers here that could give me any insight on what the profession is like.

RE: Photonics Engineering

I have met a _very_ few guys who specialize in this sort of stuff.  They probably all know each other; the field appears to be that small.  You will probably need a PhD to be taken seriously.


Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

RE: Photonics Engineering

Thanks for the response Mike. That doesn't sound too encouraging. I was planning on getting a masters, but a PhD is just too much school for me.

Here's an article I found that gives a general perspective on photonics engineering. Not sure how accurate the source is however.


It says "The employment outlook for photonics engineers is excellent. Currently there is a shortage, and the demand for trained personnel in this field is expected to remain high."

RE: Photonics Engineering

Well - if there really is a shortage - then you should probably be able to find a job with a Masters and then OJT.
If you are sharp, quick and intuitive - experience and brains will always win out - may take some time.

RE: Photonics Engineering

That's the thing, I'm not sure if there really is a shortage. A lot of articles say there are shortages in nursing, but if you ask nurses themselves, most will tell you there is definitely not a shortage.

I'm not hellbent on photonics engineering, but it is one of my top choices. I just don't want to get a degree in something that has few employment opportunities. Or maybe this economy has gotten me too paranoid?

And also, I'd like to hear if anyone knows what photonics engineers do exactly smile

RE: Photonics Engineering

Well, I knew one guy who did the optics for flying spot scanners used in simulation.  He didn't act like a PhD, but many of the best ones don't, at least in front of civilians.

I've known a couple who did stuff like mess with lasers and select catalog lenses for PMTs.

I don't think I've ever caught one actually designing a lens.


Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

RE: Photonics Engineering

It happens that I just got a jobop notice for a Laser Engineer in NJ.  

They want a PhD but would settle for 'an experienced MS'.  Maybe they'll be hiring again after you get out of school and get, say, ten years' experience. ... but who will hire you to give you that experience?


Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

RE: Photonics Engineering

Yep, that is the conundrum now. Perhaps I would be able to intern at some places during the summers?

Or, if I'm not going to get a PhD, maybe I should I go into a branch of electrical engineering instead? EE is my other top choice.

I appreciate the responses MikeH.

RE: Photonics Engineering

A lot of EEs think it's sort of a general purpose degree, qualifying them to do work in other fields because they can do the math.

I've gotten a fair amount of work that way; fixing mechanical stuff that was royally screwed up by an EE.  ... or, worse, a math major.

Getting the numbers right doesn't count if you solved the wrong equation.

Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

RE: Photonics Engineering

I got my master's degree in Mechanical Engineering, but my research was on a measuring technique called LIBS (short for Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy).  I assume that the photonics engineering field is similar.  I had to learn a lot of optics and instrumentation along with the base load of ME classes.  The photonics classes were interesting, but I did most of my calculations from the formulas in the vendor catalogs for my specific applications.  A combination of Photonics/Mechanical can be utilized to detect mechanical measurements such as stresses, strains, etc. via optical means.  Examples include: using Raman Spectroscopy to determine residual stresses, using inteferometry to determine internal stresses and thermal stresses, using Atomic Emission Spectroscopy to determine elemental composition and properties such as HHV and LHV of fuels.
  ... Sorry, I'm rambling.  Anyways, the reason why they only hire PhD's is because most of the interest in Photonics is in either research or academia.  The ones that graduate with their Master's, in my experience, have a choice to either endenture themselves to academia and research, or jump ship.   

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