Photonics Engineer

Job Description:

Photonics engineers create and improve things that use photonics, such as optics, fibre optics, and lasers.

Job Category:
Engineering & Construction

What you will do:

Your day-to-day will include tasks such as:

  • Develop optical or imaging systems, such as optical imaging products, optical components, image processes, signal process technologies, or optical systems.
  • Determine commercial, industrial, scientific, or other uses for electro-optical applications or devices.
  • Design laser machining equipment for purposes such as high-speed ablation.
  • Analyse, fabricate, or test fibre-optic links.
  • Write reports or proposals related to photonics research or development projects.
  • Document photonics system or component design processes, including objectives, issues, or outcomes.
  • Oversee or provide expertise on manufacturing, assembly, or fabrication processes.
  • Design, integrate, or test photonics systems or components.
  • Design solar energy photonics or other materials or devices to generate energy.


You’ll need:

  • knowledge of engineering science and technology
  • maths knowledge
  • knowledge of computer operating systems, hardware and software
  • design skills and knowledge
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages confidently

As well as:

  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail (organisational skills)
  • analytical thinking skills
  • attention to detail and a passion for cutting edge technologies
  • persistence and determination
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • ability to collaborate with physicists, engineers, and researchers to push the boundaries of light-based technologies and innovation (teamwork skills)
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

School Subjects

To become a Photonics Engineer in the UK, you should focus on GCSE subjects that provide a strong foundation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Here are the recommended GCSE subjects to pursue:

  1. Mathematics: Mathematics is a core subject for engineering disciplines, including Photonics Engineering. It is crucial for complex calculations, problem-solving, and data analysis involved in photonics projects.
  2. Physics: Physics provides fundamental principles related to optics, electromagnetism, and wave phenomena, which are essential in photonics engineering.
  3. Chemistry: Chemistry is helpful for understanding the properties of materials used in optical devices and photonics applications.
  4. Design and Technology: This subject can provide insights into engineering design principles, materials, and the use of machinery, which are applicable in photonics engineering projects.
  5. ICT (Information and Communication Technology): Familiarity with digital tools and software is essential for designing and simulating photonics systems.

While these subjects are recommended, becoming a Photonics Engineer involves higher education and specialized training. Here are the typical steps to pursue a career as a Photonics Engineer:


After completing GCSEs, you can pursue A-levels or other post-16 qualifications, focusing on subjects such as Mathematics, Physics, and Chemistry.

Higher Education

Apply to an accredited university to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Photonics Engineering, Optoelectronics, Electrical Engineering, or a related field. An advanced degree in optics, physics, or biomedical engineering and a correlating background in engineering, physics, and mathematics are generally required for this position. During your undergraduate studies, you will learn about lasers, fiber optics, light-based technologies, and optical communication.

Internships or Work Placements

Seek internships or work placements with photonics companies or research institutions to gain practical experience and apply theoretical knowledge to real-world projects.


Consider specializing in a particular area within Photonics Engineering, such as laser systems, optical communication, or optical sensing.

Professional Development

Join professional organizations related to Photonics Engineering, and consider pursuing postgraduate studies or professional development courses to further enhance your knowledge and skills.

Working Hours and Environment:

You’ll usually work around 40 hours a week. You may work longer to meet project deadlines.

You’ll usually work in an office or a lab. You may work in factories, workshops or outdoors.

Career Path & Progression:

With incorporated or chartered engineer status you could:

  • move into project management roles
  • specialise in research, such as telecommunications, robotics or semiconductors
  • work as an engineering consultant

You could also move into patent law.