Becoming an Optician in Washington D.C.
Dispensing opticians read eyewear prescriptions for patients and help fit them for lenses and frames. They also help patients select frames and may fix frames when needed. There is a growing need for opticians across the United States. The number of opticians working in Washington D.C. alone is predicted to increase by 15.9 percent over the next few years.[En Español]
In Washington D.C., the only educational experience required to practice opticianry is a high school diploma or equivalent. No certification or license is required to work in the federal district either. However, becoming a certified or licensed dispensing optician may increase your chances of getting hired as well as increase your earning potential.
Optician Certification in Washington D.C.
While having a license is not a prerequisite to practice as a dispensing optician in Washington D.C., if you wish to become licensed you may want to consider looking into obtaining a license in a nearby state, like Maryland or Virginia, and then work as a licensed optician in D.C.
Certification is another option to consider. Like a license it is not mandatory in the District of Columbia, but some employers may be more likely to hire someone with credentials. You can become certified by taking the National Opticianry Competency Examination (NOCE) given by the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) as well as the Contact Lens Registry Examination (CLRE) given by the National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE). Both certifications are needed to dispense eyewear.
There are basic and advanced versions of both the NOCE and the CLRE. The basic exam must be passed before the advanced exam can be taken. These exams are given four times a year and can be taken in English or Spanish. These tests are administered by computer and are two hours long. You must have a high school diploma or equivalent to take the exams. Both certifications need to be renewed every three years. A renewal fee and proof of continued education are required for renewal. There is only one testing center in Washington D.C., located on K Street, where these exams are administered. However, there are also several nearby locations that administer the exam. These include:
- Bethesda, Maryland
- Hyattsville, Maryland
- Columbia, Maryland
- Baltimore, Maryland
- Falls Church, Virginia
Optician Programs in Washington D.C.
The only educational requirements needed to work as a dispensing optician in D.C. are a high school diploma or GED. However, having post-secondary optician training may present you with more job opportunities. Formal education will also be beneficial to those who take the NOCE and CLRE. There are a couple of programs to choose from in D.C.
- Georgetown University. Georgetown University has an Ophthalmic Medical Personnel Training Program (OMPTP) that equips students with the knowledge and skills needed to assist an ophthalmologist or optometrist. There are three options to this program, including a full-time, two-year certificate program that combines classroom lectures with clinical practice. This program begins in July of each year and has limited space. Students begin their clinical rotations in September of their first year and graduate in May of their second year. There is also a nine-month workshop-style program offered yearly from September through May, one evening a week. This program is targeted toward students who are already employed and wish to further their knowledge. The final course is a six-week summer academic program. It is a classroom instruction program only. This program is included in the two-year program but can also be taken by itself.
- Penn Foster Career College. If you would rather complete a shorter program and work at your own pace instead of following a scheduled curriculum, Penn Foster is an excellent option. They offer an online program that can be taken at your leisure and can be completed in as few as seven months. Students also have an opportunity to complete a clinical externship with this program and are prepared to take the NOCE and CLRE upon completion.
Outlook and Salaries for Opticians in Washington D.C.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 290 opticians were working in D.C. as of May 2017. Furthermore, the growth rate of opticians in D.C. is predicted to increase by 15.9 percent by 2024.
Optician salaries in the capital are a little higher than they are in many of the states. The average hourly rate for opticians in D.C. is $20.76, and their average annual salary is $43,180. Entry-level opticians may expect to earn a little less than this, while more experienced, certified opticians could potentially earn more.
Salaries in DC by Occupation
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Certified Dispensing Optician Salaries in DC by Region
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Working as an Optician in Washington D.C.
In the federal district you can find work in places such as optometry or ophthalmology offices, clinics, hospitals, and retail eyewear and department stores. There are opportunities to work in the neighborhoods of Georgetown and Shaw as well as Union Station. As an optician, you may read eyewear prescriptions, order eyeglasses or contact lenses and help customers try on and select eyewear. If you are interested in a stable job with a good salary in which you would help people daily, becoming an optician in Washington would be a smart career choice.