Optician: Career Overview and Educational Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an optician. Get a quick view of the requirements, as well as details about degree programs, job duties and licensure, to see if this is the career for you.

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Essential Information

Opticians are healthcare professionals who prepare eyewear and serve customers as they shop for glasses or contacts. Many opticians enter this career field with just a high school diploma, though certificate and associate's degree programs in opticianry are available and may be preferred by some employers. In addition to completing a training program, opticians in some states will need to become licensed. The rate of employment for opticians is expected to grow at a faster than normal pace in the coming decade.

Required EducationHigh school diploma or equivalent at minimum; employers may prefer those with certificates or associate's degrees
Other RequirementsOn-the-job training; apprenticeships are available
Licensure Required in some states
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)*23%
Average Salary (2013)*$35,710

Source:*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Optician Career Overview

Job Description

Opticians fit and adjust glasses or contact lenses according to prescriptions and customer specifications. They use specialized equipment, such as calipers, hex wrenches, lens gauges, lensometers and optical screwdrivers. Opticians also recommend specific eyewear and teach customers how to wear and maintain glasses and lenses. Along with measuring customers' ocular areas and preparing eyewear, opticians may also manage prescriptions and other customer records.

Employment Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the rate of employment for opticians was projected to increase 23 percent from 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov). This increase will be due in part to a growing public awareness of the importance of eye care. Another factor is the increase in the elderly population, which generally entails a greater demand for vision care professionals. Employment growth may be offset by advances in optical technology and increased uses of corrective laser surgery; however, job prospects are expected to remain high, especially for opticians employed in optometrist offices and merchandise stores.

Earnings

In May 2013, opticians earned an average wage of $35,710 per year, according to the BLS. Wages varied by industry and location. Most opticians worked in health practitioners' offices and earned an average salary of $33,750 per year; however, the highest paying positions were for the management of companies and enterprises, offering an average of $61,190 per year. The highest paying state in 2013 was Massachusetts, which offered an average of $50,640 per year.

Optician Educational Requirements

While some opticians enter the profession with only high school diplomas, most employers prefer applicants with opticianry certificates or associate's degrees. Associate's degree programs in opticianry prepare students with the job skills needed for an entry-level position in the field. Courses may include optical theory, ophthalmic dispensing, lens technology, finishing procedures and an optical laboratory. Opticians may also gain training through apprenticeship programs, which are often offered by large employers and tend to last two or more years.

Optician Licensing

According to the BLS, about half of U.S. states regulated opticians as of 2012. Licensing requirements vary by state, and most states require that candidates complete a post-secondary opticianry program or apprenticeship program that lasts 2-4 years. Along with state-administered written and practical exams, candidates may be required to pass certification exams administered by the American Board of Opticianry and National Contact Lens Examiners. Opticians generally must renew licensure regularly by earning continuing education credits.

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