Many optician degree programs are accredited by the Commission on Opticianry Accreditation. Although some apprenticeship options are available, completing an Associate of Science in Opticianry is the most common path into the optician field. Opticianry programs are generally offered by community colleges. Students will need a high school education and solid mathematics skills to enroll.
Students enrolled in an Associate of Science in Opticianry degree program learn to analyze prescriptions, use special instrumentation and perform various techniques for eyewear fitting. Sales techniques and office management skills are also taught. These programs usually require two years to complete. Graduates of accredited programs are prepared to sit for the certifying examination offered by the American Board of Opticianry (ABO). Additionally, some programs offer flexible formats that cater to the schedules of working professionals.
Optician Associate's Degree Program
Students enrolled within an associate's degree program in opticianry must complete general education courses in the liberal arts, humanities, mathematics, and sciences. In addition, hands-on practical experiences are a key part of the curriculum. Professional coursework may include the following topics:
- Eye anatomy and physiology
- Contact lenses
- Frame selection and dispensing
- Optical theory
- Laboratory techniques
Career Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for dispensing opticians is expected to rise 24% between 2014 and 2024, which is much faster than average. The annual median wage of opticians is $34,840, according to May 2015 BLS data. Opticians working in general medical or surgical hospitals earned an annual wage of $39,380. Opticians working in department stores earned an annual wage of $29,350.
Approximately half of the states mandate licensure in order to practice as a dispensing optician, and ABO certification is usually included as part of the licensure process. Certified opticians must complete a varying number of continuing education hours each year in order to maintain their credentials. Additionally, the American Optometric Association sponsors an additional certification process in paraoptometrics, which encompasses all support roles within an optometrist or ophthalmologist office.
An associate's degree in opticianry prepares students for work in preparing eyewear and corrective equipment for patients. Many states require licensure and professional certification is available from the American Optometric Association.