An Optician helps select and then fits eyeglasses and contact lenses for people with eye problems, following prescriptions written by ophthalmologists or optometrists.
Common Work Tasks
- Recommend eyeglass frames, lenses, and lens coatings after considering the prescription and the customer’s occupation, habits, and facial features
- Measure clients’ eyes, including the distance between the centers of the pupils and the distance between the ocular surface and the lens
- Obtain a customer’s previous record to re-make eyeglasses or contact lenses, or verify a prescription with the examining optometrist or ophthalmologist
- Prepare work orders that give ophthalmic laboratory technicians the information they need to grind and insert lenses into a frame.
- Verify that the lenses have been ground to specifications
- Reshape or bend the frame by hand or using pliers so that the eyeglasses fit the customer properly and comfortably
- Fix, adjust, and refit broken frames
- Instruct clients about adapting to, wearing, or caring for eyeglasses
- Keep records on customers’ prescriptions, work orders, and payments, and track inventory and sales
- Observe customers’ eyes, corneas, lids, and contact lenses with specialized instruments and microscopes
Other Job Titles
Opticians are also known by other titles, including:
- Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians
- Dispensing Opticians
Education, Training, and Experience
Education and Training
A high school diploma is all that is required to get into this occupation, but most workers have completed at least some college courses or a degree. Classes in physics, basic anatomy, algebra, and trigonometry as well as experience with computers are particularly valuable. These prepare dispensing opticians to learn job skills, including optical mathematics, optical physics, and the use of precision measuring instruments and other machinery and tools.
Most applicants for optician positions do not have any background in the field and learn mainly on the job. Large employers usually offer structured apprenticeship programs; small employers provide more informal, on-the-job training. Apprentices receive technical training and also learn office management and sales. Under the supervision of an experienced optician, optometrist, or ophthalmologist, apprentices work directly with patients, fitting eyeglasses and contact lenses.
Certification and Licensure
Twenty-one States require dispensing opticians to be licensed. States may require individuals to pass one or more of the following for licensure: a State practical examination, a State written examination, and certification examinations offered by the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) and the National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE). To qualify for the examinations, States often require applicants to complete postsecondary training or work as apprentices for 2 to 4 years.
Any optician can apply to the ABO and the NCLE for certification of their skills, whether or not their State requires it. Certification signifies to customers and employers that an optician has a certain level of expertise. All applicants age 18 or older who have a high school diploma or equivalent are eligible for the exam, but some State licensing boards have additional eligibility requirements. Certification must be renewed every 3 years through continuing education. The State of Texas offers voluntary registration for the occupation.
The median annual salary for an Optician is $31,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $49,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $20,000. Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of opticians are:
- Offices of Other Health Practitioners - $31,680
- Health and Personal Care Stores- $34,950
- Offices of Physicians - $34,730
- Other General Merchandise Stores - $33,590
- Department Stores - $32,010
- 2006-2016 Employment growth: 9%
- Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 5,700
- Employment 2006 : 66,000
- Employment 2016: 72,000