Becoming an Optician in Alabama
Opticians work with optometrists and ophthalmologists as well as patients, filling prescriptions and assisting people in choosing lenses and frames for their eyewear. Some other duties of opticians include: [En Español]
- Determining insurance co-pays
- Processing orders
- Fitting and dispensing eyewear
- Following up with patients on dispensed eyewear
- Maintaining and displaying inventory
In Alabama, there are no educational or licensing requirements to become an optician. However, many employers in the state may prefer to hire someone with a license or certificate. Furthermore, a formal education can mean more job opportunities and a higher salary. Most employers in Alabama do require that prospective employees have a high school diploma or equivalent, and many require one to two years of work experience.
Certification for Opticians in Alabama
Not only is a license not required to work as an optician in the state of Alabama, there is not a statewide license available either. However, certification through the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) and the National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE) may increase one’s chances of being hired.
Both the ABO and NCLE offer basic and advanced exams. Exams are taken by level of training. Therefore, those just beginning to work or look for work as an optician would take the basic exams. All exams consist of questions that one would need to know to dispense eyewear. The National Opticianry Competency Examination (NOCE) focuses on spectacles and the Contact Lens Registry Examination (CLRE) focuses on contact lenses. These exams are given four times a year. Testing locations in Alabama can be found in:
The basic exams are given via computer, are two hours long and are offered in English and Spanish. Those interested in taking the exams must be at least 18 years of age and have a high school diploma or GED. The spectacle exam covers reading prescriptions, fitting and dispensing spectacles and using standard ophthalmic equipment. The contact lens dispensing exam consists of pre-fitting for lenses, diagnostic fitting, dispensing of lenses, and patient education, delivery and follow-up. Basic certification needs to be renewed every three years. Continued education and a fee are required at the time of renewal.
The ABO and NCLE advanced exams concentrate on providing advanced level training and knowledge in the dispensing of spectacles and contact lenses. To sit for the advanced exams, one must hold basic ABO and NCLE certification and have renewed those certifications at least once. Therefore, at least three years of experience as an optician are required to take these exams. More work opportunities, including working as an independent optician, are available to those who hold advanced certification.
Alabama Optician Programs
While a formal education is not required to work as an optician in Alabama, those who have some post-secondary schooling may have more work opportunities and could earn more than those without schooling. These programs also help prepare students to take and pass the ABO and NCLE exams. Here are a few program choices in Alabama:
- Wallace Community College. Wallace Community College in Dothan offers an ophthalmic assistant program. This is a 14-week program that prepares students to sit for the Certified Ophthalmic Assistant (COA) exam as well as the ABO and NCLE exams. Students will complete clinical training in local eye care clinics. Tuition for this program is $1,400 including textbooks.
- Jefferson State Community College. Jefferson State Community College also offers an ophthalmic assistant program. This program consists of 60 credit hours (which can be taken in approximately two years). It prepares students for an entry-level job in the vision field and to take the COA, ABO and NCLE exams. This program combines classroom theory and clinical training. The course fee is $799, and the textbook needed for the course costs approximately $140.
- Penn Foster Career College. For those who cannot or choose not to enroll in an on-campus program, Penn Foster Career School has an online optician career diploma program that can be completed in approximately seven months. Students learn how to fit and dispense glasses and lenses and will complete a practicum before they graduate. This program also prepares students to sit for the ABO and NCLE exams.
Outlook and Salaries for Opticians in Alabama
As of May 2018, there were 1,010 opticians employed in the state of Alabama according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The predicted growth rate for opticians in the state is 11 percent by the year 2028. This is good news, considering the job field is predicted to increase overall in the U.S. by 4 percent.
Salaries for opticians will vary throughout the state, but the statewide hourly average in 2020 was $14.71, and the annual average was $30,590. However, the more training and experience an optician has, the higher their earning potential. Opticians in Huntsville average $27,550 a year; those in Gadsden average $34,460 a year; and opticians in the Auburn and Opelika areas average up to $38,120 a year.
Salaries in Alabama by Occupation
|Profession||Employment||Mean Hourly Wage||Mean Annual Wage|
|Ophthalmic Medical Technicians||610||$16.65||$34,620|
|Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians||90||$13.52||$28,110|
Certified Dispensing Optician Salaries in Alabama by Region
|Region||Total Employment||Mean Hourly Wage||Mean Annual Salary||10% Percentile||25% Percentile||Median||75% Percentile||90% Percentile|
|Florence-Muscle Shoals, AL||**||$15.02||$31,240||$20,910||$22,900||$27,550||$39,510||$47,580|
Working as an Optician in Alabama
The Birmingham and Hoover areas have the highest concentration of jobs for opticians, but there are ample job opportunities throughout the state. Opticians usually work in optometry practices, but they can also expect to find work in chain stores, hospitals and clinics, and independent retailers. They may work as frame stylists, assistants or lab technicians. With the growth rate as high it is right now and numerous job opportunities to choose from, becoming an optician in Alabama is a wise career move.
Administration Bldg Suite 1070, Birmingham, Alabama 35294-0110
Optometry – Doctor Program
The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Doctor program in Optometry is taught at their campus in the city of Birmingham, AL. Of the 18,333 students, about 37% are postgraduates. The University of Alabama at Birmingham has institutional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges. Fees for tuition are, as a rough guide, about $8,328 yearly, while books and supplies may cost about $1,200, although this varies from program to program.
* Tuition fees and colleges’ accredition status are, to the best of our knowledge, correct at the time of writing, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (http://nces.ed.gov/). Confirm directly with college before applying.