The Importance of Certification for Opticians
When considering making a career switch or deciding on your first career out of high school, you need to have all the information to make the best choice. For a career in healthcare, working toward becoming an optician is a great option. These eye care professionals work with and help people every day, and they are in high demand. You can get into this career without years and years of training, too. There may be some requirements, though, including certification. Find out why this is an important step in the training process for working as an optician.
What is an Optician?
An optician is an eye care professional who usually works for an optometrist but sometimes for an ophthalmologist. These healthcare workers are responsible for helping patients and customers with their lens prescriptions. They help patients pick out eyeglass frames, measure and fit them, communicate with the labs that make the lenses, and help educate patients about eyeglass care, using contact lenses and general eye health. They also often do clerical and administrative tasks within the optometry practice.
How to Become an Optician
There is more than one way to become an optician, although depending on the state in which you want to work there may be specific requirements. In some places you may only need a high school diploma to be hired. In this case, you will receive on-the-job training. A better way to be eligible for more jobs is to earn a post-secondary certificate, diploma or associate’s degree in optician studies from a community college or vocational school.
National Certification Options
The American Board of Opticianry (ABO) and National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE) offers national level certification for opticians. There are no education requirements to sit for the exams, and a passing score is adequate to achieve certification. The ABO certification is for basic opticianry skills and knowledge, while the NCLE certification proves you are knowledgeable about contact lenses. While anyone can register and take the exams, those who are most likely to pass are graduates of opticianry programs.
Certification and State Requirements
One important reason to take the exams for ABO and NCLE certification is that they may be required for the state in which you want to work. Many states have no requirements for opticians and rely on employers to determine what training and certification is needed for their hires. States that have licensing requirements that usually include national certification are:
- New York
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
Certification and Employment Opportunities
Even in states where being nationally certified is not a requirement, there are important benefits to achieving ABO and NCLE certifications. Being certified is official recognition and validation of your training and education. Certification is proof that you have the skills and knowledge needed to be a good optician.
This can make you more employable, even where certification is not officially required. If an optometrist has two candidates for the job and only one is certified, he or she is likely to choose the certified optician. National certification also allows for job mobility. The certifications are recognized in all states, and even in some other countries, so that with them you will be eligible for job opportunities nearly anywhere you want to live and work.
Certification and Salary
The average annual salary for an optician in 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, was $36,250. But, the highest earners were making more than $58,000 per year. Some of this discrepancy may be due to experience and years on the job, but certification can also increase salary. You may command a better starting salary or even a raise if you become nationally certified.
When considering becoming an optician make sure you understand what all the requirements are, especially if you live in a state that has licensing for opticians. Certification is not always necessary, but there are very important reasons to work toward that achievement in your career.