Optician Training and Education
Training to become an optician is much easier and takes less time than many other healthcare careers. Depending on the state in which you want to work, there may be no official requirements at all. Regardless of those requirements, it is a good idea to know more about what is involved in learning to become an optician before you make this important career move.
What is an Optician?
Opticians work in optometry offices, stores and physician’s offices, helping patients and clients with their prescriptions for lenses. They work hands-on with optometry patients, helping them pick out frames, measuring frames to fit faces, and teaching people how to use and care for their contact lenses. Opticians also interact with the labs that make lenses in order to fill prescriptions correctly. They do not examine or diagnose eye patients, but opticians must be knowledgeable about eye care and health and everything to do with lenses and frames.
State-by-State Requirements for Opticians
Most states do not have any requirements for education, training or licensing of opticians. This means that in most states the hiring optometrist or physician is responsible for determining the qualifications of candidates. However, there are several states that do require licensing, which typically means you have to complete an educational program and pass exams for national certification. States that have licensing boards for opticians include:
Post-Secondary Opticianry Programs
Even if you think you will be working in a state with no requirements for opticians, earning a post-secondary certificate or degree in opticianry is a great way to start your career. These programs take two years or less to complete and give you the foundational knowledge needed to do the job, not to mention proof to employers that you are a good job candidate. Many career colleges, community colleges and vocational or tech schools have optician programs, and most are for certificates that take less than two years to earn.
The alternative to completing a post-secondary opticianry program is to look for an optometrist or ophthalmologist willing to hire you without that certificate or degree. In this situation, your employer will be responsible for providing training on the job. You may train under an optometrist, with an experienced optician or both. You will need to have at least a high school diploma to be hired to train and work as an optician.
National Certification for Opticians
Once you have completed training or have earned a certificate or degree in opticianry, you may want to consider taking the tests offered by the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) and National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE). These national organizations certify opticians in working with eyeglass lenses and frames and contact lenses.
Some states do require that you have this certification in order to work as an optician, but even if you are in a state that does not, there are good reasons to get certified. These are nationally-recognized credentials, so with certification you will be able to work anywhere if you ever decide to relocate. Having certification also makes you a more competitive candidate for jobs as compared to those who have not been certified. There are no qualifications to take the tests, and you only need to get a passing score to achieve certification.
Becoming an optician is a smart career move. Qualified opticians are currently in high demand and are expected to be in demand for years to come. You can enjoy good job security and a solid income as an optician without spending a lot of time and money on education and training.