Opticians

Career, Salary and Education Information

Following is everything you need to know about a career as an optician with lots of details. As a first step, take a look at some of the following jobs, which are real jobs with real employers. You will be able to see the very real job career requirements for employers who are actively hiring. The link will open in a new tab so that you can come back to this page to continue reading about the career:

Top 3 Optician Jobs

  • Optician - Lenza Eye Center - Tualatin, OR

    Please send an introductory e-mail and resume along with salary

  • Optician - Sterling Optical - Exton, PA

    Greet all customers promptly and professionally • Identify customers’ needs, wants, and lifestyle • Personally assist customers by giving

  • Optician - Semel Vision Care & Asthetics - El Segundo, CA

    Giving advice to patients on lens type, frames and styling. Taking frame and facial measurements to ensure correct fit and positioning

See all Optician jobs

What Opticians Do[About this section] [To Top]

Opticians help fit eyeglasses and contact lenses, following prescriptions from ophthalmologists and optometrists. They also help customers decide which eyeglass frames or contact lenses to buy.

Duties of Opticians

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.

Work Environment for Opticians[About this section] [To Top]

Opticians hold about 77,600 jobs. The largest employers of opticians are as follows:

Offices of optometrists 39%
Health and personal care stores 30
General merchandise stores 16
Offices of physicians 9
Self-employed workers 3

Opticians who work as part of a group optometry or medical practice work with optometrists and ophthalmologists to provide eye-related medical care to patients.

Optician Work Schedules

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[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Opticians near you!

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's degree or a certificate from a community college or technical school. About half of the states require opticians to be licensed.

Education and Training for Opticians

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's 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.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations for Opticians

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.

Important Qualities for Opticians

Business skills. Opticians are often responsible for the business aspects of running an optical store. They should be comfortable making decisions and have some knowledge of sales and inventory management.

Communication skills. Opticians must listen closely to what customers want. They must clearly explain options and instructions for care in ways that customers understand.

Customer-service skills. Because some opticians work in stores, they must answer questions and know about the products they sell. They interact with customers on a personal level, fitting eyeglasses or contact lenses. To succeed, they must be friendly, courteous, patient, and helpful to customers.

Decisionmaking skills. Opticians must determine what adjustments need to be made to eyeglasses and contact lenses. They must decide which materials and styles are most appropriate for each customer on the basis of their preferences and lifestyle.

Dexterity. Opticians frequently use special tools to make final adjustments and repairs to eyeglasses. They must have good hand‒eye coordination to do that work quickly and accurately.

Optician Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for opticians is $35,530. 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 $22,670, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $57,180.

The median annual wages for opticians in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Offices of physicians $39,430
Health and personal care stores 36,670
General merchandise stores 34,500
Offices of optometrists 34,040

Opticians employed in retail settings may be required to work evenings and weekends. Most opticians work full time, although part-time opportunities also are available.

Job Outlook for Opticians[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of opticians is projected to grow 15 percent over the next ten years, much faster than 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.

Increasing rates of chronic diseases such as diabetes also may increase demand for opticianry services because some chronic diseases cause vision problems. Additional opticians will be needed to fill prescriptions for corrective eyewear for individuals with conditions that damage their eyesight.

However, employment growth is expected to be constrained by increases in productivity that will allow a given number of opticians to serve more customers.

Job Prospects for Opticians

Having an associate's degree from an accredited program and American Board of Opticianry (ABO) and National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE) certifications may improve an applicant's job prospects.

Employment projections data for Opticians, 2016-26
Occupational Title Employment, 2016 Projected Employment, 2026 Change, 2016-26
Percent Numeric
Opticians, dispensing 77,600 88,900 15 11,300


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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