Optician: Career Overview and Educational Requirements

Sep 13, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an optician. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and licensure, to see if this is the career for you.

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.

Essential Information

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 (2018-2028)* 7%
Median Salary (2018)* $37,010

Source:*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Optician Career Overview

Job Description

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.

Employment Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the rate of employment for opticians is projected to increase 7 percent from 2018-2028 (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 2018, opticians earned a median wage of $37,010 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 offices of physicians, which offered a mean salary of $40,520. The highest paying state in 2018 was Massachusetts, with a mean salary of $60,240.

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.

Optician Licensing

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 7% through the year 2028.

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