Becoming an Optician in Alaska
If you live in Alaska and are looking for a career change or are just starting, 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 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]
Difference between Optician and Dispensing Optician
In Alaska, there is a difference between opticians and dispensing opticians. An optician typically has specialized training in the area of fitting eyeglasses and contact lenses, as well as making repairs. A dispensing optician focuses more on customer service by helping patients choose from hundreds of styles of frames, lenses, and other optical products.
The State of Alaska requires all opticians to be certified. The American Board of Opticianry and National Contact Lens Examiners (ABO-NCLE) offers certification examinations for both opticians and dispensing opticians in the state, which is a requirement to become licensed by the State of Alaska Board of Dispensing Opticians.
In addition to certification, opticians in Alaska must have at least a high school diploma or GED and complete an apprenticeship program with an optometrist or ophthalmologist. The apprenticeship process typically lasts anywhere from one to two years, depending on the employer. During this time, apprentices gain experience fitting eyeglasses and contact lenses, as well as making basic repairs.
Optician Education Requirements in Alaska
Most opticians in Alaska have completed at least a two-year degree program and have achieved certification from the National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE). Those who possess a diploma or associate’s degree in opticianry will be well on their way to success in the field. Additionally, it is important for an individual seeking to become an optician in Alaska to complete a clinical internship.
Optician Certification 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.
Optician Licensing Requirements in Alaska
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 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.
National Opticianry Competency Examination
Opticians in Alaska must pass the National Opticianry Competency Examination (NOCE) to become licensed. The exam consists of a two-part knowledge and skills assessment covering topics such as optics, ophthalmic lenses, contact lens materials, dispensing and fitting procedures, patient education, communication skills, and math for opticians.
Optician Certification Training 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 College offers an online Optician Exam Prep 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 2020. 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 $58,500 as of May 2021, 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
|Profession||Employment||Mean Hourly Wage||Mean Annual Wage|
|Ophthalmic Medical Technicians||90||$20.21||$42,030|
Certified Dispensing Optician Salaries in Alaska by Region
|Region||Total Employment||Mean Hourly Wage||Mean Annual Salary||10% Percentile||25% Percentile||Median||75% Percentile||90% Percentile|
Working as an Optician in Alaska
The future for licensed opticians in Alaska is positive. Many opticians in the state choose to open their 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.