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Salary Range: $30,000 to $39,999
Average Hourly: $ 18.53
Education: High school diploma or equivalent
Number of Jobs: 69800
Jobs Added to 2029: 4300
Growth: As fast as average
Go here to see salary and job data specific to the United Kingdom.
What Opticians 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.
About half of opticians work in offices of optometrists or offices of physicians. Other opticians worked in stores that sell eyeglasses, contact lenses, visual aids, and other optical goods. These stores may be stand-alone businesses or parts of larger retail establishments, such as department stores.
Work Environment Details
|Offices of optometrists||39%|
|Health and personal care stores||28|
|Offices of physicians||12|
Opticians who work as part of a group optometry or medical practice work with and to provide eye-related medical care to patients.
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.
Employment of opticians is projected to grow 6 percent from 2020 to 2030, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
About 5,900 openings for opticians are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
How to Become an Optician
Education and Training
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
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.
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.