Becoming an Optician in Alaska

If you live in Alaska and are looking for a career change or are just starting out, becoming an optician can be a rewarding, stable move, even with Alaska’s limited population. While apprenticeship and on-the-job training can get you into the field much faster than traditional schooling, obtaining a diploma or associate’s degree in opticianry will help you stand out from the competition. In Alaska, opticians often have their own businesses or work in retail optical chains, unless you work in rural Alaska where you can expect to be employed by regional hospital eye clinics.[En Español]

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Licensing for Opticians in Alaska

Working opticians in Alaska must be licensed through the American Board of Opticianry (ABO), taking and passing both the ABO exam and the National Contact Lens Examiner’s (NCLE) exam. In Alaska, you can become licensed as an optician for dispensing contact lenses as well as dispensing other lenses, eyeglasses, spectacles and artificial eyes.

Dispensing opticians often receive training through college, technical school programs, online or by apprenticeship under a licensed optician. To become a licensed optician in Alaska you will need to:

  • Obtain your high school diploma or equivalent with an aptitude for science
  • Complete at least 1,800 hours of training as an apprentice under a licensed optician for on-the-job training or successfully complete a diploma program or a two-year opticianry associate’s degree program
  • Register as an apprentice – a requirement by the State of Alaska (Apprentices must spend a minimum of 1,800 hours working under a licensed optician.)
  • Pass the National Certification exam by the American Board of Opticianry and/or the National Contact Lens Examiner’s test
  • Have the ability to work with people on a day-to-day basis

You will be awarded ABO-NCLE credentials after successfully passing the exam.

Alaska Optician Programs

Currently, there are no on-campus optician programs offered in the state of Alaska. However, there is an online diploma option for those interested in completing an education program.

Penn Foster Career School offers an online Optician Career Diploma Program that can be completed in as little as seven months. The program will cover important topics such as optical principles, terminology and anatomy, ophthalmic and contact lens dispensing, and math for opticians as well as business English and professional practices. Upon completing the program, students will be eligible to sit for the ABO-NCLE exam and seek an apprenticeship under a licensed optician.

Outlook and Salaries for Opticians in Alaska

The demand for opticians in Alaska is not high, but there are decent career options for those interested in working as licensed opticians. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 150 people employed as opticians in the state of Alaska in 2018. In addition to dispensing opticians, there were 70 people employed as ophthalmic medical technicians and 60 working as optometrists. It is expected that jobs for dispensing opticians will grow by 7 percent through 2028.

The average wage for certified opticians in Alaska was $57,310 as of May 2020, but in rural Alaska it is not uncommon for opticians to make considerably less, around $38,270 per year. Ophthalmic medical technicians made an average of $48,800 in 2020, and optometrists earned an average of $128,050 that same year.

Salaries in Alaska by Occupation

ProfessionEmploymentMean Hourly WageMean Annual Wage
Opticians, Dispensing130$20.74$43,140
Ophthalmic Medical Technicians90$20.21$42,030
Optometrists80$77.70$161,620

Certified Dispensing Optician Salaries in Alaska by Region

RegionTotal EmploymentMean Hourly WageMean Annual Salary10% Percentile25% PercentileMedian75% Percentile90% Percentile
Anchorage, AK90$20.47$42,580$30,480$35,900$42,860$49,720$57,640

Working as an Optician in Alaska

The future for licensed opticians in Alaska is positive. Many opticians in the state choose to open their own businesses or enter management roles where they can expect to earn considerably higher salaries.

While job openings can be found across the state, Anchorage and Fairbanks are major hubs for employment within the field and for apprenticeship offerings. Licensed opticians in Alaska can be found working in vision centers, clinics, regional hospital eye clinics and local hospitals throughout the state.

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