Opticianry Careers – A Clear View of the Future

An optician is an indispensable vision expert in the health field. The primary job of an optician is to design, fit and dispense corrective lenses for individuals needing improvement to their eyesight. A career in the field of opticianry is rewarding in many ways. Learn more about the requirements, salary, working conditions and outlook of opticians to determine if a career in opticianry is right for you.

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An optician is an eye care professional who selects and fits eyeglasses and contact lenses for patients by adhering to exacting standards. Once a patient sees an ophthalmologist and the ophthalmologist writes a prescription, a dispensing optician takes eye measurements and determines how the lifestyle and occupation of the patient affect his eyewear needs. Opticians also measure the patient’s facial features, including their nose bridge, cornea, temples and pupillary distance. The optician may suggest certain lens coatings or frame types for patients. Once the information needed to order a pair of lenses or contacts has been gathered, the optician will write an order for laboratory technician to prepare the eyeglass frame and lenses. Once the eyeglasses come in, an optician must verify that the finished frames meet appropriate specifications and that they fit the patient correctly.

Occasionally, eyeglasses will need to be refitted or repaired. This is another area an optician serves patients in the field of optometry. Opticians help to refit and repair glasses along with give instructions to the patient regarding proper usage and care of their eyeglasses.

Other daily duties of an optician may include the following:

  • Customizing glasses to suit a client’s faces by adjusting the frames
  • Work with insurance companies to maximize patients’ benefits
  • Keep customer records updated
  • Track inventory and sales

Opticians may also be required to keep record of prescriptions, inventory, payments and work orders. Some opticians are required to undergo certain training if they wish to help select and fit contact lenses for their patients.

What is the difference between an optician, optometrist and ophthalmologist?

Many lay people confuse the roles of optician, optometrist and ophthalmologist.

An optician works to finish and fit eyeglass lenses and contact lenses, turning the prescriptions of an optometrist or ophthalmologist into corrective contact lenses or glasses to enhance the vision of patients.

An optometrist is also known as a Doctor of Optometry. They are trained to examine eyes for vision problems while diagnosing and correcting vision problems through optical aids (like contact lenses and eyeglasses) along with other exercises. After an eye examination, an optometrist will write a prescription to be filled by an optician.

An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor whose specialty lies in the diagnosis, care and treatment of eyes and other related systems. Ophthalmologists may prescribe contact lenses, eyeglasses, surgery or medicines to restore eye health. Ophthalmologists also write prescriptions to be taken to an optician.

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Working Conditions

The majority of opticians work in private clinics or retail stores that sell eyeglasses and other optical goods.

Opticians need to have a number of skills. Opticians work directly with customers, having a high level of social contact. Excellent communication skills are important in this profession. Opticians must also be precise in their work, ensuring that patients’ eyeglasses are made correctly. They also need to be able to make decisions on their own on a daily basis without regularly needing to consult a supervisor before making decisions.

An optician may work part time or full time. Some opticians may be required to work evenings and weekends.

Salary Range

The median annual pay for opticians was $35,530 in 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a division of the United States Department of Labor. The median wage is determined by calculating the wage that half of the workers in the field earned more than and half of the workers earned less. Individuals in the lowest 10 percent earned less than $22,670 while those in the highest 10 percent earned over $57,180.

Opticians who worked in physicians’ offices earned the most ($39,430) while those working in offices of optometrists earned the least ($34,040) in 2016. Opticians working at health and personal care stores along with general merchandise stores fell between the two.


The outlook is excellent for opticians. Employment is expected to grow by 15 percent from 2016 to 2026, according to the United States Department of Labor.

Several factors are anticipated to increase the demand of opticianry, including the rise in rates of chronic diseases like diabetes. This is due to the fact that many chronic diseases are linked with vision problems.

Academic and State Requirements

Most dispensing opticians undergo on-the-job training or an apprenticeship (lasting for two or more years). Both of these avenues are helpful in providing the training needed to work in this profession. Some individuals who aspire to be opticians opt to pursue degrees or certificates in the field. Many employers prefer to hire prospects that are certified.

Formal training in opticianry is offered at community colleges and some colleges and universities. To find a training program, look for a program accredited by the Commission on Opticianry Accreditation that awards two-year associate degrees in otpticianry. Some programs also offer training that only takes one year or less.

Certification is highly recommended although regulations vary from state to state. Both the National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE) and the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) offer national certification and testing for opticians. Re-certification must take place every three years.

Twenty two states require licensure to practice as an optician: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia and Washington. To become a licensed optician, you will need to attend a state approved course of study as well as pass a written exam.

If you live in any of the other twenty eight states, you may have little or no requirements to make eyeglasses or dispense eyewear.

If you desire to experience the joy of helping others by enhancing their vison, a career in opticianry may be for you.