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 8 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]

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Opticians in Arkansas start 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, but its rules concerning licensing are also 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 before taking the exam.

Registered dispensing optician exams in Arkansas are administered by the National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE). The exam must be taken within one year of completing the educational program or working as an apprentice.

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 examination. 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.

Optician Certification in Arkansas

Optician certification training programs in Arkansas are usually offered at community colleges or technical schools. The courses generally include topics like vision science, professional practices, ocular anatomy, and ophthalmic optics.

Once you have completed the program and passed the necessary exams, you can become a certified optician. Certification is important because it shows employers that you are qualified to work as an optician in the state of Arkansas. You must renew your certification every three years and show proof of continued education.

Arkansas opticians are required to have a formal education in the visual field as well as work as an apprentice or assistants. Here are some college programs in the state to consider.

  • University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. The 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.
  • The 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 you will require before starting this program.

For those interested in an apprenticeship, you will need to apply through the ABDO. You must have a high school diploma or GED to apply. You will need to have a licensed optician agree to sponsor you before 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.

Apprentice dispensing opticians in Arkansas have to work under the direct supervision of a licensed optician for at least 18 months.

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Outlook and Salaries for Opticians in Arkansas

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in May 2020 that 740 dispensing opticians were working in the state of Arkansas. The number of opticians in the state is expected to rise by 10 percent over the next 10 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 2021 was $17.66. The average yearly salary was $36,730. 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 $37,810.

Salaries in Arkansas by Occupation

ProfessionEmploymentMean Hourly WageMean Annual Wage
Opticians, Dispensing520$18.04$37,520
Ophthalmic Medical Technicians220$14.57$30,310
Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians300$16.28$33,860

Certified Dispensing Optician Salaries in Arkansas by Region

RegionTotal EmploymentMean Hourly WageMean Annual Salary10% Percentile25% PercentileMedian75% Percentile90% Percentile
Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, AR-MO80$16.92$35,190$22,920$26,500$32,560$40,600$51,710
Fort Smith, AR-OK50$19.75$41,090$20,840$29,090$36,440$46,460$58,140
Jonesboro, AR40$17.08$35,530$22,090$29,150$34,900$39,250$45,670
Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR160$20.36$42,350$28,350$35,280$43,110$49,170$58,250
Memphis, TN-MS-AR220$17.34$36,080$25,840$28,190$33,170$40,010$53,330

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.

The job market for opticians in Arkansas is expected to remain steady over the next decade. This means that certified and licensed opticians should have no problem finding work in the state.

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.

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Neighbor States

Residents of Arkansas may also wish to review their options in LouisianaTexasOklahomaKansasMissouri, and Tennessee.