Optician: Career Overview and Educational Requirements

Opticians are healthcare professionals who prepare eyewear and serve customers as they shop for glasses or contacts. In addition to completing a training program, some states require opticians to become licensed. Read on to learn more about this growing profession.

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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 guages, 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 29% from 2010-2020 (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 2012, opticians earned an average wage of $35,010 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 $33,250 per year; however, the highest paying positions were in outpatient care centers, offering an average of $42,780 per year. The highest paying state was New Jersey, which offered an average of $51,300 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, 22 states regulated opticians as of 2009. 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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Optician Degree Program and Course Information

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