Becoming an Optician in Arizona

Dispensing opticians are eye care professionals who work with customers to fill prescriptions for eyeglasses and contact lenses and help customers choose their frames. This is a great career option for young people in Arizona, because growth in the field is strong, with jobs for licensed opticians expected to increase by nearly 30 percent in the coming years. You do have to be licensed in the state to work as an optician, but it is not a difficult career path.[En Español]

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Licensing for Opticians in Arizona

Licensing in the state is through the Arizona State Board of Dispensing Opticians. To qualify for an optician license you must have met one of the following training requirements:

  • Hold a license in a reciprocal state
  • Complete an apprenticeship with a licensed optometrist or optician for at least three years over the past six years
  • Graduate from an approved post-secondary optician program and complete one year of apprenticeship
  • Complete at least three years of work as an optician in a state that does not license opticians

With one of these requirements met you can apply for a license. You must submit letters attesting to good moral character and proving work experience. You must have graduated from high school or hold a GED. You also must not have been convicted of certain crimes or have had a license revoked. Finally, you must also have passed the National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE) Contact Lens Registry examination and the American Board of Opticians examination.

Arizona Optician Programs

To become a licensed optician you may choose to learn on the job through an apprenticeship. In that case, you need to find a licensed doctor, optometrist or optician to hire and train you. Alternatively, you can complete an educational program and then work for one year in an entry-level job to qualify for licensing.

  • Gateway Community College, Phoenix. Previously called the Maricopa Skills Center, Gateway in Phoenix offers students an ophthalmic medical assistant program. It takes eight months to complete, and the tuition costs are $4,180. The program prepares students for entry-level jobs working with optometrists and ophthalmologists, while also providing the skills needed to begin training as an optician.
  • Penn Foster Career School. For an online option, students can complete the Penn Foster optician diploma program. It can be completed at any pace, and the course prepares graduates to begin a hands-on training job as an optician to work toward licensing.
  • University of Arizona, Tucson. For students who want to earn a four-year degree and have the option to work as an optometrist or an optician, the University of Arizona offers a bachelor’s degree in optical sciences. This will be a more expensive and time-consuming option, but it does offer more career opportunities upon completion.

Outlook and Salaries for Opticians in Arizona

The overall outlook for careers for opticians is positive. Nationwide, growth is 15 percent according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In Arizona that growth is nearly 30 percent. There were 1,520 opticians employed in the state in 2014, and there are expected to be 1,950 employed by 2024, with the additional positions to be filled by those who are training right now. Growth for optometrists in the state is 27 percent, and for ophthalmic medical technicians it is 20 percent.

The salaries are also great for these careers in Arizona. According to the BLS, opticians in the state in 2017 earned an average annual salary of $37,480 and an average hourly salary of $18.02. In other related careers, optometrists in 2014 made an average of $118,150, while ophthalmic medical technicians earned $36,560.

Salaries in Arizona by Occupation

ProfessionEmploymentMean Hourly WageMean Annual Wage
Opticians, Dispensing1,810$18.02$37,480
Ophthalmic Medical Technicians570$17.58$36,560
Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians120$15.06$31,310
Optometrists660$56.80$118,150

Certified Dispensing Optician Salaries in Arizona by Region

RegionTotal EmploymentMean Hourly WageMean Annual Salary10% Percentile25% PercentileMedian75% Percentile90% Percentile
Lake Havasu City-Kingman, AZ40$17.38$36,140$25,910$28,130$32,120$41,660$54,430
Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ1,380$17.93$37,300$25,670$28,750$35,190$44,130$52,250
Prescott, AZ40$18.01$37,470$26,390$28,900$34,470$45,480$56,590
Tucson, AZ230$18.53$38,530$25,300$28,020$34,590$48,050$58,500
Yuma, AZ50$16.30$33,910$23,580$26,260$30,300$37,450$54,430

Working as an Optician in Arizona

There are, and will continue to be, plenty of job opportunities for licensed opticians in Arizona. The bigger population centers of the Phoenix area and Tucson present some of the highest concentrations of jobs for these professionals, but employers throughout the state will be hiring opticians now and for several years. Opticians work in optical chain stores and independent glasses and contact lens retailers. They are also hired by hospitals and private practices for ophthalmologists and optometrists. With just a couple of years of training, you could be in high demand as a licensed Arizona optician.

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College Programs

Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, AZ Area

Midwestern University-Glendale

19555 N 59th Ave, Glendale, Arizona 85308
(623) 572-3200
Optometry – Doctor Program

Midwestern University’s Doctor program in Optometry is based at their Glendale campus in Glendale in Maricopa County, Arizona. Of the 3,295 students, about 100% are postgraduates. The university is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission. The cost of tuition is likely to be in the order of $43,335 yearly.

* 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.

Neighbor States

Residents of Arizona may also wish to review their options in California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico.