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Optician Education Requirements, Job Duties and Employment Outlook

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an optician. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and licensing to find out if this is the career for you.

Can you see yourself working as an optician? If so, be aware that although you can get a job in this field with only a high school diploma and either an apprenticeship or learning on the job, senior positions may be more accessible with a degree or certificate in opticianry. Some states also require you to pass a licensing exam.

Essential Information

Opticians are eye care professionals who select and fit contacts and eyeglasses for patients. After an ophthalmologist writes a prescription, dispensing opticians take eye measurements and determine how a patient's occupation, lifestyle and facial features affect his or her eyewear needs. On-the-job training or an apprenticeship can provide the training needed to begin working in this profession; however, some aspiring opticians choose to pursue certificates or degrees in the field. Licensure is required in some states, and employers may prefer to hire those who are certified.

Required Education High school diploma with on-the-job training or apprenticeship; certificate, associate's degree or bachelor's degree in opticianry for career advancement
Other Requirements State licensure and/or certification
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 24%
Annual Median Salary (2015)* $34,840

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Requirements for Opticians

While there are no specific educational requirements for an optician, an associate's or bachelor's degree in opticianry may offer a competitive advantage. Opticianry courses educate students in the anatomy and physiology of the human eye, optical fundamentals and refraction. Through clinical training, students also have opportunities to learn about polishing, hand beveling, heat treatment, tinting and fitting glasses.

While licensing requirements vary by state, some states mandate that applicants pass a practical or written examination. Employers may require prospective opticians to be certified by the American Board of Opticianry and National Contact Lens Examiners.

Job Duties

Opticians are responsible for using precision equipment to measure various eye features, including corneal thickness and pupil distance. Patient information is then provided to lab technicians to create properly fitted frames.

Opticians also make suggestions about frame shapes, styles and colors, lenses and special lens coatings, such as anti-glare materials. Some opticians are also responsible for grinding and tinting lenses, repairing glasses and fitting contacts.

Some offices may require opticians to perform front-desk duties and fill out insurance claims. Strong customer service skills and a professional appearance are also mandatory.

Employment Outlook

Opticians work in eyeglass stores or with ophthalmologists in medical offices. While many offices are generally open during normal business hours, some retail outlets may require employees to work nights and weekends.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job prospects are expected to rise 24% between 2014 and 2024, because of the aging U.S. population and their need for eyewear (www.bls.gov). As of 2015, the BLS reports that the median salary for dispensing opticians was $34,840.

Jobs in this rapidly-growing field offer a unique mix of technological work and customer interaction. Not only are you working with delicate equipment to create corrective lenses, but you'll also help find the best eyewear fit for the client's needs and lifestyle. Education and training opportunities can help you obtain certification and find work more easily.

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