Becoming an Optician in North Carolina

Opticians are employed in the vision care industry, working closely with customers to fill prescriptions, pick out and try on eyeglass frames and learn how to use new contact lenses.[En Español]

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The need for opticians and other vision care professionals in North Carolina is strong. Opticians can be found working in a variety of different locations, including private ophthalmic practices, hospitals, and retail optical chains, among others. If you love helping people and consider yourself to be a people person, becoming a licensed optician in North Carolina would be a great career move.

Licensing for Opticians in North Carolina

There are currently three options for training to become an optician in North Carolina:

  • Complete a three-and-a-half-year apprenticeship. The apprenticeship option incorporates an optician certification, which means you will meet all training and practical requirements upon completion.
  • Complete an associate’s degree program. Two-year associate’s degree programs in North Carolina equip students with technical skills in all areas of opticianry by incorporating a practicum experience.
  • Complete a certificate program in addition to North Carolina State Board‘s two-and-a-half-year apprenticeship.

After concluding an apprenticeship or successfully passing a degree program, you will need to complete a board-approved internship before applying for an optician license. Optician internships in North Carolina are required to be at least six months in length, authenticating all technical skills that were acquired during an apprenticeship or school program. The North Carolina State Board of Opticians lists all training requirements that must be met before applying for licensure.

National Optician Certification in North Carolina

Working opticians in North Carolina must be certified through the American Board of Opticianry (ABO), taking and passing both the ABO exam and the National Contact Lens Examiner’s (NCLE) exam. The licensure exam in North Carolina is offered just twice per year, in March and in October. Once you have received your license to practice as an optician it will remain valid for one year. License renewal can be done online if the renewal is completed before the expiration date.

National Contact Lens Examiners Exam (NCLE)

The NCLE exam is the second step in becoming certified as an optician in North Carolina. The NCLE exam consists of three parts: a written test, a clinical aptitude demonstration, and a professional skills performance assessment. Candidates must pass all three exams to be eligible for licensure. Additional information on the NCLE can be found on the American Board of Opticianry’s website.

Contact Lens Registry Exam

In addition to the NCLE exam, opticians in North Carolina must pass the Contact Lens Registry Exam (CLRE). This exam is administered by the National Association of Dispensing Opticians and serves as an additional credential for those who wish to work with contact lenses. The CLRE focuses specifically on contact lens fitting, care, and management and requires the successful completion of a 45-minute online test. Once you have passed the CLRE exam, your name will be added to the national registry of contact lens practitioners.

ABO Certification Exam

The ABO exam is the final step to becoming a licensed optician in North Carolina. This exam covers all aspects of eye care and requires applicants to demonstrate their knowledge of optics, lenses, frames, and contact lenses. The ABO certification exam is offered once per year in March. Those who pass the examination will be given an optician certification, allowing them to practice as an optician in North Carolina.

Optician Certification Training Programs

Durham Technical Community College offers two optician programs to choose from, including:

  • Associate’s degree in Opticianry. After completing this two-year program at DTCC, students will have satisfied all educational requirements established by the North Carolina State Board of Opticians and will be eligible to seek out and obtain an internship. This program also offers a student practicum that allows students to practice the skills they have learned while in the classroom.
  • Optical Apprentice Program. While completing this certificate program, students will need to be registered as an apprentice with the North Carolina State Board of Opticians and complete a two-and-a-half-year apprenticeship to receive on-the-job training. Upon completion of this online course as well as the apprenticeship, students will be eligible to seek out a six-month internship, a requirement of licensure in North Carolina.

In addition to Durham Technical Community College, Penn Foster College offers an online Optician Exam Prep Career Diploma Program that can be completed in as little as seven months. Upon completion, students will be eligible to become an apprentice and enter the North Carolina State Board’s two-and-a-half-year apprenticeship program.

Job Outlook and Salaries for Opticians in North Carolina

The outlook for opticians in North Carolina is very strong. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 1,730 people were working as licensed opticians in North Carolina in 2020. Additionally, there were approximately 2,600 people employed as ophthalmic medical technicians and 1,210  employed optometrists in the same year. Employment as licensed opticians in North Carolina is expected to increase by 8 percent through 2030.

The average annual salary for licensed opticians in North Carolina was $37,860, or $ $18.20 per hour, in 2021. Ophthalmic medical technicians made $36,740 annually, or $17.66 per hour, while optometrists made an average salary of $130,070 for the same year.

Salaries in North Carolina by Occupation

ProfessionEmploymentMean Hourly WageMean Annual Wage
Opticians, Dispensing1,800$19.95$41,500
Ophthalmic Medical Technicians2,340$16.92$35,190
Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians400$13.51$28,090

Certified Dispensing Optician Salaries in North Carolina by Region

RegionTotal EmploymentMean Hourly WageMean Annual Salary10% Percentile25% PercentileMedian75% Percentile90% Percentile
Asheville, NC150$22.39$46,580$24,590$28,340$40,060$55,680$93,090
Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC580$19.06$39,650$28,520$32,870$37,900$46,800$54,960
Durham-Chapel Hill, NC120$20.44$42,520$26,080$29,660$43,650$53,850$60,320
Fayetteville, NC50$16.97$35,300$24,650$27,130$31,070$41,510$54,900
Greensboro-High Point, NC80$18.96$39,440$27,240$30,790$36,780$49,970$57,500
Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC50$20.32$42,270$31,780$34,320$38,380$48,710$61,590
Jacksonville, NC40$19.91$41,420$22,080$28,950$39,470$56,010$62,150
Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, SC-NC120$16.41$34,130$17,890$23,040$33,710$40,350$54,680
Raleigh, NC310$21.82$45,380$30,490$38,250$46,490$53,190$59,890
Rocky Mount, NC50$16.41$34,130$21,870$24,840$31,050$38,340$57,520
Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC340$21.05$43,790$32,340$38,780$44,570$49,960$57,430
Wilmington, NC80$23.00$47,840$29,410$36,350$52,800$58,270$61,550
Winston-Salem, NC110$18.22$37,890$27,680$32,300$36,020$40,120$54,950

Working as an Optician in North Carolina

The future for licensed opticians in North Carolina is positive, with many employment opportunities and growth throughout the state. Future opticians have great years ahead.

Opticians are required to know glasses prescription lens materials, multifocal lens considerations prisms, corrective eye care solutions, and frames frame adjustment basics.

While jobs are plentiful in North Carolina, the highest-paying cities for licensed opticians include Durham, Raleigh, and Ashville. Licensed opticians in North Carolina can be found working in a variety of settings, but in these cities it is very common for them to be employed by private optometry and ophthalmology practices, working normal business hours and receiving competitive wages. In other locations such as clinics, hospitals, and vision care chains, opticians will likely be scheduled to work evenings and some weekends.

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College Programs

Durham-Chapel Hill, NC Area

Durham Technical Community College

1637 Lawson Street, Durham, North Carolina 27703-5023
(919) 536-7200
Opticianry – Associate Program, Optical Apprentice – Certificate Program

Durham Technical Community College offers multiple training options, including an Associate program and a Certificate program. Classes are taken at their campus in the city of Durham, North Carolina. This public college has around 5,118 students in total, with the majority of students on 2-year programs. The college is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges. The cost of tuition is likely to be in the order of $1,958 per year. Learning materials may cost in the order of $1,300, although this will vary with the program.

* Tuition fees and colleges’ accreditation status are, to the best of our knowledge, correct at the time of writing, according to the National Center for Education Statistics ( Confirm directly with the college before applying.

Neighbor States

Residents of North Carolina may also wish to review their options in Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, and Virginia.