Comparing Opticians to Optometric Technicians
Within the eye care field, opticians and optometric technicians are there to help patients as they navigate complicated prescriptions. Their degree requirements, salaries, and career outlooks, as well as their regular duties, can be divergent in important ways.
|Job Title||Educational Requirements||Median Salary (2016)*||Job Growth (2016-2026)*|
|Opticians||High school diploma or equivalent||$35,530||15%|
|Optometric Technicians||Postsecondary nondegree award, High school diploma or equivalent||$31,540 (Medical Assistants)||29% (Medical Assistants)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Responsibilities of Opticians vs. Optometric Technicians
Opticians and optometric technicians are not to be confused with eye doctors like optometrists or ophthalmologists. Opticians and optometric technicians assist patients as they choose frames and lenses based on their budgets and occupations, but they do not have the authority to write a prescription for a patient. Instead, opticians focus on selling products and informing customers about their options. On the other hand, optometric technicians tend to carry a more administrative role in ophthalmology clinics or retail shops.
Prior to an optometrist's examination, opticians meet with patients to measure the distance between their pupils, as well as measure other facial features, to ensure lenses will fit correctly. They use pupilometers and PD rulers to gather these data and input the information, along with the final prescription, into the computer. This helps them to accurately develop work orders for the laboratory technicians who grind and mount the lenses into frames. As customers choose their frames, opticians help by offering options in lenses, protective coatings, and tints. These professionals also give customers the information about their insurance benefits and bill insurance companies.
Job responsibilities of an optician include:
- Interpreting a customer's prescription for glasses or contact lenses
- Maintaining knowledge of available product lines
- Educating patients on how to insert, remove, and clean contact lenses
- Notifying patients when their glasses or contact lenses are ready
Optometric technicians perform tests on a patient's color vision, visual acuity, and eye pressure. They then record the results for the optometrist to verify. Additionally, using drops to dilate a patient's pupils, allowing the doctor to check for glaucoma, is something optometric technicians may also do. The administrative work they complete begins with answering phones and scheduling appointments. They may also gather daily deposits for the bank. Additionally, these professionals maintain vision test equipment by cleaning and calibrating it, as well as submitting work orders for repairs. When a patient requires it, they print work or school release letters and referrals to specialists.
Job responsibilities of an optometric technician include:
- Completing inventory and ordering frames, cleaning supplies, and contact solutions the clinic keeps on hand
- Ordering contact lenses to fill prescriptions
- Calling insurance companies to ensure a patient's coverage
- Obtaining patient records from other clinics
If you're serious about a career as an optician, you could consider a position as an optometrist, since both focus on perfecting an eyeglasses prescription. If you're curious about a position as an optometric technician, you could also research a career as a dental hygienist, because both provide primary care for patients coming in for an appointment.