Optipedia Salaries

Defense Salaries in Optics and Photonics

What are the highest-paying sectors for defense engineers and scientists working with light-based technology? What do the most popular defense careers in optics and photonics pay? What is the median defense optics and photonics salary in your country? 

Based on findings from the 2019 SPIE Optics and Photonics Global Salary Report, SPIE has answers about working in the defense industry including:


Average Salary

The average salary for those working in defense across all surveyed countries is $110,813. The median optics and photonics defense salary is $100,000. Salaries in the 25th percentile of survey respondents averaged $55,256, while those in the 75th percentile earned $100,000 more per year than that at $155,000.

Average Salary - Median optics and photonics defense salaries

Salaries Around the World

When looking at the individual countries where respondents live, the median optics and photonics defense salaries tell a different story. Respondents in the United States, Israel, and Switzerland earn salaries closer to the international median, with workers in the United States averaging the highest salary. Respondents in South Korea, the United Kingdom, and Canada report the lowest average salaries.

Median optics and photonics defense salaries around the world

Employers in Defense

Almost half of those surveyed work at for-profit companies. Government and military organizations account for 27 percent of the employers, and academic institutions employ the remaining 25 percent.

Employers - Where do people in defense optics and photonics work?

Popular Disciplines

The different disciplines in defense are well represented across respondents, but optical systems and aerospace work garner the most practitioners, with 15 percent of respondents working with optical systems and 14 percent working in aerospace. Less popular disciplines include interdisciplinary engineering and research, and physics, which also averages the lowest salary at $46,139.

Popularity - Most popular disciplines in defense optics and photonics


As expected, job levels with greater seniority have hirer salaries, with respondents at the vice-president level earning the most at $255,000. Technicians have the lowest salaries at $65,855.

Seniority - Median defense salary by job level


The longer someone stays in the defense industry, the greater their salary becomes. Those new to the industry earn the least at $58,000 per year, while those who have been working more than 30 years earn more than the international median at $145,056. Interestingly there is a dip in income around 21-25 years in the industry. 

Experience - Median defense salary by years on the job

Download the full infographic.

This information plus other data and details about methods and sampling, can be found in the 2019 SPIE Optics and Photonics Global Salary Report.

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A. Resnick, Optics & Photonics Global Salary Report, 2019, SPIE Career Center.