Becoming an Optician in Arkansas
Opticians are high in demand throughout the United States. In Arkansas, jobs in this career field are increasing at a rate of 21 percent. Opticians assist patients with filling their eyewear prescriptions. They help patients select new eyewear and fit them for that eyewear as well. They may fix broken frames. They will also instruct new contact lens wearers on the use and care of their lenses.[En Español]
Opticians in Arkansas start off as apprentices or assistants. After they have completed a formal education program and have adequate work experience, they can take the certification and state exams and become a licensed optician.
Licensing Requirements for Opticians in Arkansas
Some states do require that dispensing opticians be licensed to practice within the state. Not only does Arkansas require licensure, their rules concerning licensing are a little different than some of the other states.
Optician licensing in Arkansas is handled by the Arkansas State Board of Dispensing Opticians (ABDO). Those interested in applying for an optician license in the state must be over the age of 21 and have a high school diploma or GED. They must either complete an educational program that is nationally accredited and approved by the board or work in the opticianry field as an apprentice or assistant for at least five years. The educational program must be an 18-month program or longer. In addition, if you chose the education route, you must still work as an apprentice for at least 18 months prior to taking the exam.
Also, before taking the statewide license exam you must take the certification exams given by the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) and the National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE). These exams are the National Opticianry Competency Examination (NOCE) and the Contact Lens Registry Examination (CLRE). These exams cover different topics, so it is mandatory to take both. The NOCE and CLRE are given four times a year. You are allowed two hours per exam and can take the exams in either English or Spanish. Once you become certified you must renew your certification every three years and show proof of continued education.
The Arkansas dispensing optician license consists of two parts: written and practical. An overall score of 70 percent is a passing score. The exam covers mechanical optics, facial measurements, occupational vision, lens types and fitting for glasses and frames. Once you pass the exam and are licensed through the state of Arkansas, you are required to renew that license annually.
Arkansas Optician Training and Apprentice Programs
Arkansas opticians are required to have a formal education in the vision field as well as work as an apprentice or assistant. Here are some college programs in the state to consider.
- University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences has an Ophthalmic Medical Technology program. It is the best program choice for those who are interested in opticianry but not sure if they want to continue in optometry. This is a competitive program that only takes a select number of students each semester. It is a 24-month program and consists of 120 credits. Students will graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in Ophthalmic Medical Technology. They will also be prepared to take the ABO and NCLE exams.
- University of Central Arkansas. At the University of Central Arkansas, students can get a bachelor’s degree in biology, focusing on pre-optometry. This program assists students who are planning on pursuing a four-year Doctor of Optometry degree at an optometry school. These courses are compatible with most optometry programs, but some programs might require more math or anatomy courses. It would be important to know which optometry program you are going into and what courses they will require prior to starting this program.
For those interested in apprenticeship, you will need to apply through the ABDO. You must have a high school diploma or GED in order to apply. You will need to have a licensed optician agree to sponsor you prior to applying as well. A minimum of 18 months is required before you can take the state exam if you have completed an educational program as well. If you haven’t, you will need five years of work experience.
Outlook and Salaries for Opticians in Arkansas
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in May 2017 that there were 480 dispensing opticians working in the state of Arkansas. The number of opticians in the state is expected to rise by 21 percent over the next six years. One third of the state’s dispensing opticians can be found working in the cities of Little Rock and Conway.
The average hourly pay for an optician in Arkansas in 2017 was $18.04. The average yearly salary was $37,520. Optician apprentices and entry-level opticians will likely have a starting salary that is less than the average. Opticians who are certified, licensed and have more experience may earn more than the statewide average. Salary may also depend on location. In addition to employing the most opticians in the state, the cities of Little Rock and Conway also have the highest paid opticians, with both cities reporting a yearly average of $42,350.
Salaries in Arkansas by Occupation
|Profession||Employment||Mean Hourly Wage||Mean Annual Wage|
|Ophthalmic Medical Technicians||220||$14.57||$30,310|
|Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians||300||$16.28||$33,860|
Certified Dispensing Optician Salaries in Arkansas by Region
|Region||Total Employment||Mean Hourly Wage||Mean Annual Salary||10% Percentile||25% Percentile||Median||75% Percentile||90% Percentile|
|Fort Smith, AR-OK||50||$19.75||$41,090||$20,840||$29,090||$36,440||$46,460||$58,140|
|Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR||160||$20.36||$42,350||$28,350||$35,280||$43,110||$49,170||$58,250|
Working as an Optician in Arkansas
In Arkansas, most dispensing opticians can be found working in eyewear and vision stores like Eyemart Express, Lens Crafters and OnSight Optical. They can also find work in doctor’s offices, clinics and hospitals. Some of the larger Arkansas cities, like Fayetteville, Jonesboro, Little Rock and Springdale, are good places to consider employment. However, with formal education, licensure and experience, in just a few years you can be ready to work as a dispensing optician anywhere within the state.