Becoming an Optician in Iowa

If you are looking for a new or first career in Iowa, and you enjoy working with and helping people, consider becoming an optician. There are no official licensing or educational requirements to work as an optician in the state, but getting a degree or certificate and gaining national certification is a smart way to be a more desirable job candidate. Once hired, you can expect to work hands-on with customers and patients, filling prescriptions and guiding the selection and fitting of frames.[En Español]

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How to Become an Optician in Iowa

Iowa is one of several states that do not have any statewide requirements for working in this position. To become an optician, you have a couple of options. One is to seek an entry-level position, during which you will train on the job under an optician, an optometrist, a physician or an ophthalmologist. Another option is to start with a post-secondary program that will prepare you to work as an optician and to take the national certification exams. There are no campus-based optician programs in Iowa, but there are a few other options:

  • Penn Foster Career School. This online school offers a comprehensive program in optician studies that students anywhere in the state can access and complete. The coursework prepares graduates to work in the field and to pass the national level certification exams.
  • Meditec. Meditec is another online option that students in Iowa can choose and that will prepare graduates for jobs and certification. The program includes several lessons on eye anatomy, frames and lenses, as well as courses in office procedures.
  • Iowa Central Community College. Iowa Central has several campuses, and while there is no optician program, students here can begin a career path in optometry. Optometrists work with opticians and patients, providing eye exams and basic eye health care. The Iowa Central program is a two-year associate degree that prepares students to complete an optometry degree at a four-year institution.

National Certification for Opticians

Employers hiring opticians like to see that individuals are qualified, even though there is no licensing in Iowa. If you have completed an education program or received hands-on training through an apprenticeship or entry-level position, you should be prepared to pass the exams for national certification, which will help you land a great job by proving you have the skills and knowledge to do the work. Exams that are most widely recognized are offered through the American Board of Opticianry and the National Contact Lens Examiners.

Outlook and Salaries for Opticians in Iowa

You can expect a great outlook in Iowa for becoming an optician. There will be plenty of job opportunities in the coming years for qualified individuals. The current rate of growth in the industry is nearly 22 percent. In 2014, there were 930 employed opticians in Iowa, and there will be 200 more positions by 2024. Employers will need qualified opticians to fill those roles.

The salaries for eye professionals in the state are competitive. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), opticians in Iowa made an average salary of $32,710 per year or $15.73 per hour in 2017. The highest salaries for opticians are in Iowa City, with an average annual income of $40,670. Ophthalmic medical technicians earned an average of $35,170, while optometrists earned $130,780.

Salaries in Iowa by Occupation

ProfessionEmploymentMean Hourly WageMean Annual Wage
Opticians, Dispensing910$15.73$32,710
Ophthalmic Medical Technicians550$16.91$35,170
Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians220$25.78$53,630
Optometrists440$62.88$130,780

Certified Dispensing Optician Salaries in Iowa by Region

RegionTotal EmploymentMean Hourly WageMean Annual Salary10% Percentile25% PercentileMedian75% Percentile90% Percentile
Ames, IA**$15.30$31,830$25,650$27,920$31,960$36,020$38,410
Cedar Rapids, IA110$16.08$33,450$23,870$28,190$33,650$38,400$44,890
Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL80$14.29$29,720$22,140$25,040$28,990$34,630$38,560
Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA230$14.65$30,470$21,430$23,750$27,590$36,920$46,020
Iowa City, IA40$19.31$40,160$25,130$30,280$40,670$49,700$57,740
Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA350$17.38$36,160$22,100$27,680$36,550$44,960$49,660
Sioux City, IA-NE-SD70$16.30$33,890$24,260$27,570$33,480$39,770$46,840
Waterloo-Cedar Falls, IA40$16.44$34,190$26,910$29,890$34,520$38,290$40,910

Working as an Optician in Iowa

Most opticians in Iowa and other states work in optometry practices. They work under optometrists, filling prescriptions, fitting customer for frames and helping customers learn about their lenses and contacts. Other options for work as a qualified optician include positions in medical research laboratories, clinics, hospitals and ophthalmology practices. Wherever you choose to work, your opportunities will be plentiful in Iowa in the coming years, so that you will have your pick of jobs.

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Neighbor States

Residents of Iowa may also wish to review their options in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska and South Dakota.