Certified Optical Technician: Job Duties & Requirements

Certified optical technicians create the lenses used in eyeglasses and other optical devices. Learn about the education and training required to enter this career, as well as alternative careers in the field.

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Career Definition for a Certified Optical Technician

A certified optical technician shapes, grinds and coats lenses for prescription eyewear. These professionals, also known as ophthalmic technicians, fit completed lenses into eyeglass frames. They ensure that lenses conform to the dispensing optician, ophthalmologist or optometrist's prescriptions. Certified optical technicians work in optical labs, optometry offices or at retail optical shops. Evening and weekend shifts could be required, particularly in retail positions. They work under supervision of licensed eye-care professionals like ophthalmologists or optometrists.

Education On the job training, optional certifications available with a high school diploma or GED
Job Skills Communication, computer literacy, attention to detail, math knowledge
Median Salary (2015)* $29,860 for ophthalmic lab technicians
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 10% for ophthalmic lab technicians

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education and Certification

Optical technicians aren't required to have formal training or certification. However, certification is available through the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) and the National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE). A high school diploma or GED is the only requirement for taking the certification exam. Review courses are available to prepare for the certification exam. The ABO administers the National Opticianry Competency Examination (NOCE), and it relates to eyeglasses only. NCLE administers the Contact Lens Registry Examination (CLRE), which is geared toward contact lenses.

Job Skills

Certified optical technicians are required to have good communications skills, along with strong knowledge of math. Certified optical technicians should also master computer skills and be able to pay attention to detail.

Career and Economic Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that optical or ophthalmic technicians can expect average job growth of about 10% during the 2014-2024 decade. An aging population with an increased need for corrective lenses is expected to help increase demand for optical technicians. The median annual wage for optical or ophthalmic technicians in 2012 was $29,860, according to the BLS.

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Alternative Career Options

Here are a few other options to consider for careers in optics and medical equipment:

Dispensing Optician

Becoming a dispensing optician may be a good career choice for those interested in working directly with customers in the corrective eye care industry. Dispensing opticians work in optometrists' offices, physicians' offices or eye care centers. They take eye measurements, help ensure that glasses fit correctly and fix broken glasses. While some opticians learn on the job, the BLS reports that almost half of U.S. states require opticians to be licensed, and licensure requires the completion of a 1- to 2-year postsecondary education program or apprenticeship. In May 2015, the BLS reported that dispensing opticians earned a median annual salary of $34,840. The BLS projects that jobs for dispensing opticians will grow by 24% during the 2014-2024 decade, which is much faster than average.

Medical Equipment Repairer

For those interested in fixing machinery instead of using it, medical equipment repair might be a good career choice. These workers maintain and fix all types of medical equipment, including diagnostic equipment used for eye examinations. An associate's degree is typically the minimum education requirement. Optional certification is available from organizations such as the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation. The BLS projects that this group of workers will increase by 6% from 2014 to 2024. Medical equipment repairers earned a median annual salary of $46,340, according to the BLS in 2015.

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