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How to Become an Optician

What Does an Optician Do?

optician showing frames

An optician works at the exciting juncture of health and fashion. These skilled professionals, also known as dispensing opticians, prepare prescription eyeglass lenses, help customers choose eyeglass frames, and tailor the frames to customers’ unique facial measurements. When customers need contact lenses instead, opticians adjust the fit of the lenses to the eyes. An important part of an optician’s job is to make sure that customers are comfortable enough with their new eyeglass frames (or contact lenses) to wear them as prescribed.

During consultations, an optician considers the type of lenses as well as the context in which a customer will use them (for example at a construction site versus an office cubicle) to make a recommendation well suited to the individual’s lifestyle.

In many ways, a dispensing optician’s job is analogous to that of a pharmacist who dispenses drugs based on prescriptions written by physicians. Although opticians do not write prescriptions for lenses, they must understand the science and reasoning behind them. (Some opticians are qualified to operate the equipment that grinds lenses, while others send completed work orders to a lab that crafts lenses.) To be an optician is to make life easier, safer and more comfortable for the many people who require prescriptive lenses, from child to new parent to senior citizen.

Workplace Details

Most dispensing opticians work for an optometrist, who either has an office practice or works in an eyewear store. Many different types of stores now sell eyeglasses and contact lenses - from specialized shops to department stores - and opticians may work in any of these environments.

Opticians who are employed in eyewear stores and department stores generally work some evenings and weekends. Those employed in optometrists’ or ophthalmologists’ offices will have more regular hours. Most work full time, although some are employed on a part-time basis.

Salary and Job Outlook

State
Average Wage
California
$41010
Texas
$32110
Florida
$37620
New York
$51290
Michigan
$35470

Hover over any state to explore local income and job growth data.

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ALABAMA

Median Salary: 
$29,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $19,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $41,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 25%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Birmingham$21,480$34,040$45,980
Huntsville$20,960$28,670$50,120

ALASKA

Median Salary: 
$43,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $29,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $59,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 20%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Anchorage$29,260$42,360$58,080

ARIZONA

Median Salary: 
$37,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $25,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $55,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 29%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 80

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Phoenix$25,590$37,930$56,100
Tuscon$22,790$35,890$56,940

ARKANSAS

Median Salary: 
$31,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $22,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $49,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 25%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Little Rock$23,190$39,580$58,010
Fort Smith$21,250$29,570$50,710

CALIFORNIA

Median Salary: 
$39,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $25,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $64,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 18%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 350

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Los Angeles$24,870$38,500$69,200
San Francisco Bay$25,900$42,320$71,010
San Diego$23,950$43,130$61,580
Sacramento$27,500$38,770$57,200

COLORADO

Median Salary: 
$34,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $22,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $53,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 29%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 80

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Denver$23,030$36,680$56,570
Colorado Springs$21,720$30,490$43,630

CONNECTICUT

Median Salary: 
$39,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $26,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $66,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 19%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Hartford$26,400$44,260$72,320
Bridgeport$27,980$38,530$60,300
New Haven$25,930$38,620$64,440

DELAWARE

Median Salary: 
$38,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $27,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $49,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 21%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Wilmington$25,920$36,870$49,730
Dover$31,080$40,300$49,890

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Median Salary: 
$39,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $22,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $55,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Washington DC$23,020$39,250$58,690

FLORIDA

Median Salary: 
$38,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $24,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $55,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 31%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 300

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Miami$28,320$41,530$59,780
Orlando$21,910$34,810$51,210
Tampa$25,080$37,630$49,860
Jacksonville$22,460$34,760$49,990

GEORGIA

Median Salary: 
$31,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $49,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 38%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 90

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Atlanta$20,370$33,100$49,250
Augusta$20,940$28,640$46,050

HAWAII

Median Salary: 
$35,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $23,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $49,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 18%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Honolulu$22,520$34,700$49,060

IDAHO

Median Salary: 
$32,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $22,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $48,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 30%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 230

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Boise$22,830$34,160$48,490

ILLINOIS

Median Salary: 
$31,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $46,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 16%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 130

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Chicago$20,670$34,800$48,250
Rockford$21,130$29,650$45,900

INDIANA

Median Salary: 
$29,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $39,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 24%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 100

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Indianapolis$20,630$30,600$38,830
South Bend$20,280$27,170$38,750
Fort Wayne$18,820$28,100$36,740

IOWA

Median Salary: 
$29,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $43,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 22%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Des Moines$22,390$33,680$47,270
Cedar Rapids$20,860$27,690$38,240

KANSAS

Median Salary: 
$26,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $19,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $37,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 12%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Wichita$17,950$25,430$35,850
Kansas City$21,340$28,390$39,110

KENTUCKY

Median Salary: 
$35,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $22,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $50,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 29%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Louisville$20,720$27,820$45,820
Lexington$25,410$39,380$57,500

LOUISIANA

Median Salary: 
$30,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $21,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $43,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 60

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
New Orleans$22,000$33,160$43,140
Baton Rouge$20,770$31,660$39,650
Lafayette$21,600$29,460$43,780

MAINE

Median Salary: 
$33,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $25,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $49,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Portland$27,010$39,530$74,830

MARYLAND

Median Salary: 
$35,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $22,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $56,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 60

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Baltimore$20,530$34,900$49,740
Frederick$22,900$36,300$57,940

MASSACHUSETTS

Median Salary: 
$51,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $32,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $72,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 4%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 60

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Boston$41,190$55,160$79,230
Worcester$28,830$43,330$71,300
Springfield$22,060$39,460$68,660

MICHIGAN

Median Salary: 
$34,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $22,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $47,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 130

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Detroit$22,900$37,090$48,760
Grand Rapids$23,400$32,210$46,380

MINNESOTA

Median Salary: 
$35,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $23,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $51,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 20%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 80

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Minneapolis - St. Paul$26,890$39,180$51,900
Rochester$18,900$35,310$57,350

MISSISSIPPI

Median Salary: 
$26,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $19,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $42,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 16%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Jackson$19,880$27,480$43,030
Gulfport$21,610$29,280$45,040

MISSOURI

Median Salary: 
$26,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $39,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 18%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 60

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
St. Louis$20,810$27,710$47,480
Kansas City$21,340$28,390$39,110

MONTANA

Median Salary: 
$32,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $22,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $45,100

Job Growth Data Not Available

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Billings$25,220$33,240$50,870
Missoula$24,780$32,270$44,670

NEBRASKA

Median Salary: 
$29,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $42,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 21%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Omaha$20,110$30,310$44,380
Lincoln$21,830$29,630$45,030

NEVADA

Median Salary: 
$38,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $26,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $68,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 41%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Las Vegas$26,880$37,680$69,660
Reno$28,630$41,700$62,730

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Median Salary: 
$36,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $24,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $52,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 23%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Manchester$23,090$33,880$51,030
Nashua$23,680$40,020$50,320

NEW JERSEY

Median Salary: 
$53,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $32,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $68,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 21%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 70

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Newark$22,410$51,210$65,930
Trenton$33,890$57,640$74,700

NEW MEXICO

Median Salary: 
$31,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $21,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $43,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 24%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Albuquerque$22,710$34,310$44,880
Las Cruces$20,770$23,100$44,190

NEW YORK

Median Salary: 
$46,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $26,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $64,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 24%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 150

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
New York City$29,970$52,720$71,680
Buffalo$33,090$44,660$57,410
Rochester$40,520$51,190$61,740
Albany$26,440$44,420$61,470

NORTH CAROLINA

Median Salary: 
$38,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $25,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $58,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 27%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 90

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Charlotte$23,190$35,070$53,200
Raleigh$28,660$43,170$59,370
Greensboro$20,870$35,060$57,990
Winston - Salem$26,830$35,740$51,720

NORTH DAKOTA

Median Salary: 
$27,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $39,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 28%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Fargo$18,610$24,830$43,560
Bismarck$21,170$27,730$36,950

OHIO

Median Salary: 
$36,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $23,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $47,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 19%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 140

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Cleveland$26,940$37,480$48,040
Columbus$23,530$35,430$46,890
Cincinnati$29,620$43,320$50,620
Dayton$22,000$33,370$43,390

OKLAHOMA

Median Salary: 
$25,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $17,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $37,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 24%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Oklahoma City$18,050$28,210$36,980
Tulsa$17,670$25,110$42,210

OREGON

Median Salary: 
$34,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $23,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $49,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 30%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 70

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Portland$23,690$34,950$53,840
Salem$23,850$37,120$50,110

PENNSYLVANIA

Median Salary: 
$35,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $22,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $54,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 130

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Philadelphia$22,810$37,370$58,050
Pittsburgh$22,260$39,030$55,120
Harrisburg$28,020$37,100$56,650
Allentown$25,910$36,680$53,910

RHODE ISLAND

Median Salary: 
$44,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $32,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $59,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Providence$32,990$45,560$60,680

SOUTH CAROLINA

Median Salary: 
$32,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $48,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 21%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 60

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Greenville$25,640$34,360$45,630
Columbia$26,430$35,590$49,760
Charleston$17,540$29,240$53,400

SOUTH DAKOTA

Median Salary: 
$29,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $22,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $44,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 12%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Sioux Falls$24,860$30,450$41,910
Rapid City$22,270$28,430$44,310

TENNESSEE

Median Salary: 
$31,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $21,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $48,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 27%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Nashville$20,210$26,170$46,050
Memphis$21,600$33,860$56,070
Knoxville$22,110$33,380$48,040
Chattanooga$20,110$27,720$43,800

TEXAS

Median Salary: 
$29,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $42,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 27%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 330

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Dallas - Ft. Worth$19,700$30,570$43,150
Houston$21,030$30,310$40,330
San Antonio$20,800$31,420$44,590
Austin$17,230$28,070$43,600

UTAH

Median Salary: 
$30,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $22,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $43,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 33%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Salt Lake City$24,320$30,720$41,030
Ogden$20,560$29,290$43,790

VERMONT

Median Salary: 
$40,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $32,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $53,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Burlington$28,550$43,770$58,580

VIRGINIA

Median Salary: 
$41,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $22,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $58,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 26%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 110

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Virginia Beach$21,130$42,080$57,140
Richmond$21,040$43,640$60,040

WASHINGTON

Median Salary: 
$46,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $30,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $60,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 37%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 90

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Seattle$35,900$51,950$61,210
Spokane$22,340$42,530$58,880

WEST VIRGINIA

Median Salary: 
$28,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $37,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 6%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Huntington$21,390$30,730$47,170
Charleston$24,290$29,720$37,740

WISCONSIN

Median Salary: 
$28,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $19,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $45,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 70

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Milwaukee$18,120$31,020$48,030
Madison$20,950$33,130$45,120

WYOMING

Median Salary: 
$31,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $22,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $46,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 21%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Cheyenne$21,960$30,020$45,880
Casper$22,140$36,520$48,250

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average annual wage for an optician is $36,820. However, salaries range from around $21,980 to $55,530 and higher; these are the median salaries of the bottom and top 10% of wage earners, respectively. Jobs at surgical hospitals pay more than most walk-in eye care stores. Salary varies geographically as well.

There are many job opportunities for licensed opticians. Employment of opticians is expected to grow by 24 percent from 2014 to 2024 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, significantly faster than the average for all occupations. Opticians may find employment with optometrists, ophthalmologists, eye care centers or department stores. Keeping up to date with industry changes and new product developments will give opticians an edge in the job market. Certification will also offer an advantage when applying for jobs.

Compare Salaries by City

New York City NY Median Pay

$52720 Per Year

$25.34 Per Hour

Los Angeles CA Median Pay

$38500 Per Year

$18.50 Per Hour

Steps to Become an Optician

1

Earn a high school diploma.

Becoming an optician requires a high school diploma or an approved GED equivalent.

2

Enter an apprenticeship or opt for more schooling.

After earning a diploma or GED, prospective opticians can enter formal education and training or an apprenticeship. Many opticians seek further education from colleges or technical schools, either in the form of a 1-year certificate program or a two-year associate degree in opticianry, which involves coursework in basic anatomy, eye anatomy, algebra and trigonometry, optical physics and mathematics and administration. Students also learn about precision measuring equipment and techniques and optical instrumentation. More advanced studies include classes on fitting contact lens and vision prosthetics.

Show Me Schools »

Whether you study at a community college or university, it is recommended that you choose an opticianry program that is accredited by the Commission on Opticianry Accreditation (COA), a nationally recognized professional board.

Prospective opticians who take the apprenticeship path are required to undergo a two- to four-year period of on-the-job training under the supervision of a licensed optician.

3

Meet the licensing requirements in your state.

Licensing and certification requirements for dispensing opticians vary from state to state. State licenses are issued after successful completion of a practical or written examination and some states may require both. State eligibility requirements for sitting for opticianry exams also vary. Some states require applicants to have an associate degree or an apprenticeship of two to four years.

4

Consider certification.

In addition, opticians can qualify for voluntary certification by two nationally recognized professional organizations:

  • American Board of Opticianry (ABO)
  • National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE)

Information about certification from both organizations is available on their combined website (ABO/NCLE).

Basic examinations in each area consist of 125 multiple-choice questions. Candidates must be 18 years of age and hold a high school diploma or equivalent GED. Certification must be renewed after three years and opticians are expected to keep up with developments in the field by taking a certain number of approved continuing education courses.

Although this certification is not mandated, some states recognize the certificate, and many employers - and customers - prefer an optician who has ABO and/or NCLE certification.

5

Look into opportunities for advancement.

Certification and experience may enable opticians to advance to management positions. These positions are available in workplaces with multiple opticians, such as eye care stores or department stores. In an optometrist’s office or ophthalmologist’s office, certification and experience can trigger an increase in pay.

Explore Educational Paths

ON-THE-JOB TRAINING OR APPRENTICESHIP

Duration varies

Most employers require optician candidates to hold a high school diploma or approved GED equivalent. New hires can then complete supervised on-the-job training. This may be informal, or it may be structured as a certified apprenticeship, which typically takes at least two years to complete.

Trainees learn technical skills, such as assessing customers’ vision and adjusting their frames, under the supervision of an experienced optician, optometrist, or ophthalmologist. Preparation can also include sales and office management.

CERTIFICATE PROGRAM

1 year

Opticians can also train by obtaining a certificate. When choosing a one-year certificate program, look for one recognized by the Commission on Opticianry Accreditation (COA). These programs offer high-quality education and are well respected among employers and industry professionals. In 2016, there were only two accredited certificate programs in the U.S.

Certificate programs require study in the following subjects, among others:

Optics

The study of light and its properties as applied to vision and vision correction.

Fabrication techniques

Examines the materials and processes used to create corrective lenses.

Ophthalmic materials and terminology

Students gain a working vocabulary of the field and learn about lens characteristics like power and curvature.

Supervised laboratory work, where theory is applied in a lab setting, is required. Students also rotate through a clinical externship or internship to gain hands-on experience.

ASSOCIATE DEGREE

2 years

More commonly, future opticians earn a two-year associate degree from an accredited training program. Once again, students should look for a program recognized by the Commission on Opticianry Accreditation (COA). As of 2016, there were 19 COA-accredited optician degree programs in 13 states, some of which offer distance-learning options.

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Optician associate degree programs include both classwork and clinical experience. In addition to subjects covered in the certificate program, the curriculum addresses:

Eye physiology

Examines the anatomy and function of the human eye as well as disorders that affect it.

Contact lens fitting, modification and theory

Students learn to customize lenses for a variety of patients and clinical situations.

Practice management

An introduction to the basic business skills required to run an office and manage staff.

Students also complete supervised, hands-on training in which they apply optical math and physics to real-life cases, fabricate corrective lenses, and practice using precision measuring instruments.

Compared to a certificate program, the associate degree curriculum puts greater emphasis on mathematics and science classes while providing more in-depth coursework on dispensing and fitting corrective lenses.

Additionally, an associate degree is the easiest option to carry over from state to state. The more rigorous coursework can also help students prepare for licensing exams in states that require them.

Check the licensure requirements for your state and any states in which you may consider working, to determine if an apprenticeship, certificate or associate degree would work best for you.

Keys to Success as an Optician

Necessary Skills and Qualities

Patient and understanding

Opticians work closely with customers of all ages, from young children to senior citizens. Therefore, good people skills are important. Opticians must have patience and the ability to make customers feel at ease.

Strong communicators

Customers who are getting glasses for the first time are often uncertain or uncomfortable and an optician can help ensure that they’re prepared for the transition to wearing prescriptive eyewear. Opticians must listen carefully to their customers’ needs and accurately explain instructions for contact lenses and/or glasses.

Detail-oriented

Customizing and adjusting eyeglasses requires attention to detail. Opticians write out the work orders that are used by ophthalmic lab technicians, who grind lenses and assemble the components of each pair of eyeglasses. These specifications must be meticulous and accurate.

Hand-eye coordination

Opticians use certain tools to adjust eyeglasses, so dexterity is needed. Fitting contact lenses demands a steady hand.

Additional Credentials

Opticians can obtain certifications in eyeglass dispensing and contact lens dispensing, which are administered by the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) and the National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE), respectively. Both organizations offer three levels of certification:

  • Basic - requires an exam. Appropriate for new professionals.
  • Advanced - requires several years of professional experience, completion of advanced coursework, and an exam
  • Masters - candidates must hold advanced certification and demonstrate an ongoing commitment to professionalism, education, and excellence

About half of the states require licensure of opticians. Among these, 90 percent use the basic ABO and NCLE exams as their standard. Some states also require opticians to pass state-specific practical exams.

Opticians who are currently employed can take advantage of the Ophthalmic Career Progression Program (OCPP) offered by the National Academy of Opticianry, in order to prepare for licensure exams and advanced certifications.

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