Optician Education Requirements, Job Duties and Employment Outlook

Opticians are eye care professionals who select and fit contacts and eyeglasses for patients. After an ophthalmologist writes a prescription, dispensing opticians take eye measurements and determine how a patient's occupation, lifestyle and facial features affect his or her eyewear needs.

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Educational Requirements for Opticians

While there are no specific educational requirements for an optician, a 2-year associate degree or 4-year bachelor degree in opticianry may offer a competitive advantage. Opticianry courses educate students in the anatomy and physiology of the human eye, optical fundamentals and refraction. Through clinical training, students also have opportunities to learn about polishing, hand beveling, heat treatment, tinting and fitting glasses.

While licensing requirements vary by state, some states mandate that applicants pass a practical or written examination. Employers may require prospective opticians to be certified by the American Board of Opticianry and National Contact Lens Examiners.

Job Duties

Opticians are responsible for using precision equipment to measure various eye features, including corneal thickness and pupil distance. Patient information is then provided to lab technicians to create properly fitted frames.

Opticians also make suggestions about frame shapes, styles and colors, lenses and special lens coatings, such as anti-glare materials. Some opticians are also responsible for grinding and tinting lenses, repairing glasses and fitting contacts.

Some offices may require opticians to perform front-desk duties and fill out insurance claims. Strong customer services and a professional appearance are also mandatory.

Employment Outlook

Opticians work in eyeglass stores or with ophthalmologists in medical offices. While many offices are generally open during normal business hours, some retail outlets may require employees to work nights and weekends.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job prospects are expected to rise 29% between 2010 and 2020, because of the aging U.S. population and their need for eyewear (www.bls.gov). As of 2010, the BLS reports that the median salary for dispensing opticians was $32,940.

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Online Optician Degrees and Training Programs

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  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
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    • Wisconsin (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Milwaukee Area Technical College include:
      • Non-Degree: Certificate, Coursework
      • Undergraduate: Associate
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      • Clinical Laboratory Science Professions
      • Dental
      • Medical Administrative Services
      • Medical Assisting
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