If you're thinking about a career as an optician, you can work with a high school diploma or equivalent; however there are degree programs available for prospective opticians. A license is required in some states, and opticians will need to renew it through ongoing continuing education.
Opticians are healthcare professionals who prepare eyewear and serve customers as they shop for glasses or contacts. Many opticians enter this career field with just a high school diploma or GED, although certificate and associate's degree programs in opticianry are available and may be preferred by some employers. In addition to completing a training program, opticians in some states will need to become licensed. The rate of employment for opticians is expected to grow at a faster than normal pace in the coming decade.
|Required Education||High school diploma or equivalent at minimum; employers may prefer those with certificates or associate's degrees|
|Other Requirements||On-the-job training; apprenticeships are available|
|Licensure||Required in some states|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||24%|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$34,840|
Source:*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Optician Career Overview
Opticians fit and adjust glasses or contact lenses according to prescriptions and customer specifications. They use specialized equipment, such as calipers, hex wrenches, lens gauges, lensometers and optical screwdrivers. Opticians also recommend specific eyewear and teach customers how to wear and maintain glasses and lenses. Along with measuring customers' ocular areas and preparing eyewear, opticians may also manage prescriptions and other customer records.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the rate of employment for opticians is projected to increase 24 percent from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). This increase will be due in part to a growing public awareness of the importance of eye care. Another factor is the increase in the elderly population, a group that generally requires more a vision care and hence more professionals. Employment growth may be offset by advances in optical technology and increased uses of corrective laser surgery; however, job prospects are expected to remain high, especially for opticians employed in optometrist offices and merchandise stores.
In May 2015, opticians earned a median wage of $34,840 per year, according to the BLS. Wages varied by industry and location. Most opticians worked in health practitioners' offices. The highest paying positions were in outpatient care centers, which offered a mean salary of $46,100. The highest paying state in 2015 was Massachusetts, with a mean salary of $51,850.
Optician Educational Requirements
While some opticians enter the profession with only high school diplomas, most employers prefer applicants with opticianry certificates or associate's degrees. Associate's degree programs in opticianry prepare students with the job skills needed for an entry-level position in the field. Courses may include optical theory, ophthalmic dispensing, lens technology, finishing procedures and an optical laboratory. Opticians may also gain training through apprenticeship programs, which are often offered by large employers and tend to last two or more years.
According to the BLS, about half of U.S. states regulated opticians as of 2015. Licensing requirements vary by state, and most states require that candidates complete a post-secondary opticianry program or apprenticeship program that lasts 2-4 years. Along with state-administered written and practical exams, candidates may be required to pass certification exams administered by the American Board of Opticianry and National Contact Lens Examiners. Opticians generally must renew licensure regularly by earning continuing education credits.
Opticians help customers shop for eyewear and prepare glasses and contact lenses. While a high school diploma or GED is sometimes sufficient for this field, a degree program in opticianry prepares students through courses such as optical theory, lens technology, optical laboratories, and apprenticeships. Licensure is required in many states, and the job opportunities for opticians are predicted to rise by 24% through the year 2024.