Opticians help fit eyeglasses and contact lenses, following prescriptions from ophthalmologists and optometrists.
What they do
Opticians typically do the following:
- Receive customers’ prescriptions for eyeglasses or contact lenses
- Measure customers’ eyes and faces, such as the distance between their pupils
- Help customers choose eyeglass frames and lens treatments, such as eyewear for occupational use or sports, tints, or antireflective coatings, based on their vision needs and style preferences
- Create work orders for ophthalmic laboratory technicians, providing information about the lenses needed
- Adjust eyewear to ensure a good fit
- Repair or replace broken eyeglass frames
- Educate customers about eyewear—for example, show them how to care for their contact lenses
- Perform business tasks, such as maintaining sales records, keeping track of customers’ prescriptions, and ordering and maintaining inventory
Opticians who work in small shops or prepare custom orders may cut lenses and insert them into frames—tasks usually performed by ophthalmic laboratory technicians.
Opticians who work in large retail establishments, such as department stores, may have to work evenings and weekends. Most opticians work full time, although part-time opportunities also are available.
How to become an Optician
Opticians typically have a high school diploma or equivalent and receive some form of on-the-job training. Some opticians enter the occupation with an associate degree or a certificate from a community college or technical school. About half of the states require opticians to be licensed.
Opticians typically have a high school diploma or equivalent and learn job skills through on-the-job training. Training includes technical instruction in which, for example, a new optician measures a customer’s eyes or adjusts frames under the supervision of an experienced optician. Trainees also learn sales and office management practices. Some opticians complete an apprenticeship, which typically takes at least 2 years.
Other opticians complete a postsecondary education program at a community college or technical school. These programs award a 2-year associate degree or a 1-year certificate. As of 2017, the Commission on Opticianry Accreditation accredited 19 programs in 11 states.
Education programs typically include both classroom instruction and clinical experience. Coursework includes classes in optics, eye physiology, math, and business management, among other topics. Students also do supervised clinical work that gives them hands-on experience working as opticians and learning optical math, optical physics, and the use of precision measuring instruments. Some programs have distance-learning options.
The National Academy of Opticianry offers the Ophthalmic Career Progression Program (OCPP), a program designed for individuals who are already working in the field. The OCPP offers opticians another way to prepare for licensure exams or certifications.
About half of the states require opticians to be licensed. Licensure usually requires completing formal education through an approved program or completing an apprenticeship. In addition, opticians must pass one or more exams to be licensed. The opticianry licensing board in each state can supply information on licensing requirements.
Opticians may choose to become certified in eyeglass dispensing or contact lens dispensing or both. Certification requires passing exams from the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) and National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE). Nearly all state licensing boards use the ABO and NCLE exams as the basis for state licensing. Some states also require opticians to pass state-specific practical exams.
In most states that require licensure, opticians must renew their license every 1 to 3 years and must complete continuing education requirements.
The median annual wage for opticians was $37,840 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $25,640, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $60,840.
Employment of opticians is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
The growth in the older population is anticipated to lead to greater demand for eye care services. Because people usually have eye problems more frequently as they age, the need for opticians is likely to grow with the increase in the number of older people.
Similar Job Titles
Certified Optician, Contact Lens Technician, Dispensing Optician, Licensed Dispensing Optician (LDO), Licensed Optician, Ophthalmic Dispenser, Optical Technician, Optician, Optometric Assistant, Optometric Technician
Wholesale and Retail Buyer (except Farm Products), Pharmacy Technician, Medical Assistant, First-Line Supervisor of Personal Service Workers, Retail Salesperson
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- American Board of Opticianry and National Contact Lens Examiners
- Contact Lens Society of America
- National Academy of Opticianry
- Opticians Association of America
- Society to Advance Opticianry
Magazines and Publications
Well-fitting, attractive up-to-date glasses or contact lenses give people a new look —and, even better— help them see the world more clearly. Opticians help customers choose eyeglass frames or contact lenses, following prescriptions from ophthalmologists and optometrists. After measuring customers’ eyes and faces, opticians create work orders to have the glasses and lenses made… when the glasses come in from the manufacturer, opticians adjust them to fit the customer and teach customers how to care for their eyewear. Opticians working in small shops or preparing custom orders may sometimes cut lenses and prepare frames… many repair broken frames. They also maintain sales records, keep track of customers’ prescriptions, and order inventory. Opticians generally work full time, although part-time schedules are not uncommon. Most opticians work in optometrist offices and in retail stores— which may include evening and weekend hours. Opticians typically have a high school diploma or equivalent and receive on-the-job training. Some opticians earn an associate degree or a certificate. Many states require licensure.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org