Becoming an Optician in Louisiana
Dispensing opticians are vision care professionals who fill eyewear prescriptions written by optometrists or ophthalmologists. They also assist people in selecting eyeglass frames, fitting them for frames, explaining care procedures, and instructing them on how to use contact lenses. The predicted growth rate over the next several years for this field across all states is 4 percent. Optician jobs in the state of Louisiana are expected to increase by 17 percent, which is above the national average.[En Español]
The state of Louisiana has no licensing regulations for opticians; therefore, education, certification and licensure requirements are left up to employers. Formal education and certification are not prerequisites for practicing opticianry in the state, but those who have them are more likely to get hired and to earn higher salaries.
Licensing and Certification for Opticians in Louisiana
Although there are no statewide obligations to be licensed or certified to practice as a dispensing optician in the state of Louisiana, some employers may prefer someone who at least holds certification. Opticians who are certified also have more job opportunities and make more money.
To gain certification, you can take the National Opticianry Competency Examination (NOCE) administered by the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) and the Contact Lens Registry Examination (CLRE) given by the National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE). It is important that you take both exams, because the NOCE focuses primarily on glasses and the CLRE must be taken to dispense contact lenses. These exams are offered four times a year and are offered at basic and advanced levels. The advanced level certification can only be taken once basic certification has been received and renewed at least once. The exams are offered in English and Spanish and take approximately two hours to complete. Testing centers in Louisiana are located in Alexandria, Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Shreveport. Once you become certified, you must renew this certification every three years and provide proof of continued education upon renewal.
If you wish to become a licensed optician, you can go through the licensing process in another state, or you can take the National Board of Examiners in Optometry (NBEO) exam. You must have a high school diploma to take this exam. You must also be an apprentice or be enrolled in an educational program. The NBEO exam is divided into parts, and state requirements vary as to which parts you must pass to become licensed in each state. For a Louisiana license you must make passing scores on Part I (Applied Basic Science), Part II (Patient Assessment & Management), Part III (Clinical Skills) and TMOD (Treatment and Management of Ocular Disease) as well as pass the injection test. The NBEO exam is given only once each year, and this license must be renewed annually.
Louisiana Optician Training and Apprentice Programs
There is no formal optician apprenticeship program in Louisiana. To become an apprentice, you must register as an apprentice through the Louisiana Workforce Commission and find an employer to sponsor you. While many employers prefer to hire opticians with work experience, some employers will hire non-licensed opticians for the sake of training them. You can look for open apprenticeships through the Louisiana Workforce Commission, and some job listings will specify that they are looking to hire an optician trainee or apprentice.
If you prefer educational training over apprenticeship, or becoming an optician is just a stepping stone for you on your way to becoming an optometrist, you have a couple of options:
- University of New Orleans. The University of New Orleans offers a pre-optometry program. This is not a degree program. This is a program that guides students who are interested in seeking a degree in optometry. Before studying optometry, you must earn a four-year degree in a science-related major. This program assists students in choosing courses that are specific to their major and electives that will count towards their optometry degree. Math, English and science courses are required. Economics, history and social sciences are encouraged as electives.
- Penn Foster College. If you would like to complete a program in which you will receive a diploma in opticianry, Penn Foster College does offer an online course. It can be completed in approximately seven months and can be done at your pace. If you are planning to get ABO-NCLE certification, it would be wise to complete this program first as it will prepare you for a lot of the material that will be covered on both exams. Penn Foster also has a payment plan for their tuition, where you can make monthly payments rather than paying a lump sum up front.
Outlook and Salaries for Opticians in Louisiana
Louisiana has many highly populated cities, thus presenting a high demand for vision care and other health-related services. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) most current data, there were 1,010 opticians working in the state as of May 2018. The predicted 17 percent increase over the coming years should add at least another 20 jobs in the field. Of all the cities in Louisiana, New Orleans employs the most opticians.
The BLS data also showed that Louisiana opticians made an average of $14.80 an hour and $30,790 a year in 2020. Those at the entry-level and with little to no experience may make less. However, opticians who are certified or licensed and have experience will potentially earn more. The cities of Baton Rouge, Bossier City, Metairie, New Orleans and Shreveport all reported average annual salaries that were above $28,000. The Houma-Thibodaux had the highest annual average of $32,240.
Salaries in Louisiana by Occupation
|Profession||Employment||Mean Hourly Wage||Mean Annual Wage|
|Ophthalmic Medical Technicians||380||$18.62||$38,740|
|Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians||420||$15.60||$32,450|
Certified Dispensing Optician Salaries in Louisiana by Region
|Region||Total Employment||Mean Hourly Wage||Mean Annual Salary||10% Percentile||25% Percentile||Median||75% Percentile||90% Percentile|
|Baton Rouge, LA||170||$16.19||$33,670||$21,290||$26,150||$32,840||$38,500||$46,800|
|Lake Charles, LA||50||$14.14||$29,410||$19,500||$24,770||$28,270||$34,110||$42,780|
|New Orleans-Metairie, LA||380||$16.66||$34,650||$26,270||$28,460||$33,200||$40,950||$47,110|
|Shreveport-Bossier City, LA||70||$15.77||$32,810||$25,390||$27,570||$31,390||$37,480||$44,370|
Working as an Optician in Louisiana
There are several different types of places to find employment as an optician in Louisiana, whether you are licensed or not. Some employers may prefer someone who is licensed, but many will also be willing to hire someone with no experience and train them. You can look for work with eyeglass retailers, hospitals, clinics and private optometry or ophthalmology practices. If you choose to start off as an apprentice or trainee, you could begin looking for work immediately. If you wish to take classes and become certified before looking for work, you could still be ready to work as an optician anywhere in the state in as little as a year.