Opticians can be referred to as dispensing opticians, licensed opticians, certified opticians, optical technicians, or contact lens technicians. They assist individuals with choosing eyeglass frames, based on factors such as occupation, lifestyle, coloring and facial structure. Some also fit contact lenses, artificial eyes or cosmetic covers for eyes.
Using sophisticated instruments, opticians measure a client’s eyes. They then prepare a work order that includes all the information needed to produce eyeglass lenses to fit the customer’s frames. Some opticians are trained to grind and fit lenses. Others send work orders to ophthalmic laboratories. After the eyeglasses are manufactured, the optician verifies the prescription and performs a final fitting with the client.
An important aspect of an optician’s job is keeping accurate records on client prescriptions. They also may fix and refit broken frames and instruct eyeglass and contact lens wearers on proper care.
Opticians Job Profile
- Employers increasingly prefer to hire certified opticians or graduates from accredited two-year associate’s degree programs. Some employers provide an apprenticeship.
- 22 states require opticians to be licensed.
- The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts job opportunities should be very good for this field.
Work Environment for Opticians
Most opticians work indoors, in medial offices or retail operations. They may spend time on their feet, and may be exposed to some hazards on the job, such as glass cutting machinery and chemicals. Proper precautions can prevent most injuries opticians could experience.
Most opticians work 40-hour weeks. Some work part time. Those employed by retailers may be required to work evenings, weekends and holidays.
Career Path of an Optician - Education, Training and Licensing
Becoming an optician typically begins with a two-year associate’s degree program in opticianry. Often, an apprenticeship with an employer follows graduation from such a program.
While a high school diploma is the minimum education level required to be an optician, most have completed at least some college. Helpful courses include anatomy, physics, trigonometry and algebra. Experience with machinery and tools as well as computer software is also valuable.
In states where licensing is not required, apprenticeship programs are common. These are usually offered by larger employers, and include technical and sales training and instruction in management techniques. Education in patient care, eyeglass fitting and contact lens dispensing is usually provided under the supervision of an experienced optician, optometrist or ophthalmologist.
Community, technical and junior colleges often offer formal optician training programs resulting in associate’s degrees; some universities offer four-year bachelor’s degree programs.
As of 2009, 22 states require opticians to hold licenses. Each state has its own requirements for licensing, but in general, it requires passing either practical and written examinations or certification examinations. Certification is offered by the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) and the National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE). Applicants for state exams often need to have two to four years of work experience or training. Some states allow graduates from accredited programs to take licensing examinations immediately upon graduation; others require experience ranging from a few months to a year.
Opticians can apply for certification, which indicates a certain level of expertise, and is sometimes required by employers. Certification must be renewed every three years, and continuing education is required.
Individuals planning on a career as an optician must be good communicators, tactful, and pleasant when dealing with the public. Good manual dexterity and a high degree of patience are also essential attributes for this career.
Jobs Outlook and Salary Information
According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) records, the estimated employment for opticians in May 2009 was 60,840; most were employed in health practioners’ offices. The remaining worked in health and personal care stores and physicians offices, as well as general merchandise and department stores.
The BLS predicts employment in this field will grow about as fast as the average for all occupations. Job growth will occur as a growing general and aged population spurs demand for more corrective lenses
How much do opticians make a year? The BLS reports that opticians earned a median yearly salary of $32,740 in May 2009. The middle 50% earned between $26,070 and $41,660, while the lowest 10% earned about $21,120. The highest 10% earned upwards of $50,560 annually.