Becoming an Optician in Tennessee

Overall job growth for opticians in the U.S. is strong, at 4 percent according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). But, in Tennessee, it is the same with 4-percent growth. This means that anyone learning and training to work as an optician in Tennessee right now will have a lot of great opportunities for jobs in the coming years. Opticians are eye care professionals who work with physicians and optometrists to fill lens prescriptions, educate patients and help people pick out and use their frames.[En Español]

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Licensing for Opticians in Tennessee

To work as a dispensing optician in Tennessee you must be licensed through the state Board of Dispensing Opticians. To qualify for licensing you can complete one of two options. The first is to complete an approved post-secondary optician program and to pass the exams set by the National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE) Contact Lens Registry and the American Board of Opticians. The approved program includes classwork and hands-on training.

The second option is to complete a three-year apprenticeship program and pass the same exams. The apprenticeship must be completed under the supervision of a licensed ophthalmologist, optometrist or optician. It must include a minimum of 5,250 hours of working and learning. Apprentices must be registered by the Board.

Optician Education Program in Tennessee

While you can complete an apprenticeship program with any professional willing to take you on for training, there is only one school in the state that has an approved program for the educational path to becoming a licensed dispensing optician. There are other programs accredited by the Commission on Opticianry Accreditation that the state will accept, but they are in other states.

In Tennessee, the approved program is the associate of applied science degree in opticianry at Roane State Community College in Harriman. Students in this program can complete coursework in two years, and the classes include general education as well as ophthalmic courses, like dispensing, eye anatomy, contact lenses, optics and ophthalmic materials. Admission to this program is competitive with just 30 spots per year available.

Outlook and Salaries for Opticians in Tennessee

Growth for opticianry careers in Tennessee is very strong. The number of positions available for licensed professionals continues to increase. In 2018, for instance, there were 1,670 employed opticians in the state, and by 2028 there are expected to be 1,740, a growth rate of over 4 percent. Growth is also strong for related careers including ophthalmic medical technicians and optometrists.

According to the BLS, the average annual salary for opticians in Tennessee in 2020 was $38,130. The average hourly salary was $18.33. For ophthalmic medical technicians, the average salary that year was $35,190. For optometrists it was $103,450. Optometrists earn so much more because they go through many more years of training and education to be licensed to examine and diagnose patients and write prescriptions.

Salaries in Tennessee by Occupation

ProfessionEmploymentMean Hourly WageMean Annual Wage
Opticians, Dispensing1,760$17.81$37,040
Ophthalmic Medical Technicians820$16.86$35,060
Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians590$15.03$31,270
Optometrists670$57.90$120,430

Certified Dispensing Optician Salaries in Tennessee by Region

RegionTotal EmploymentMean Hourly WageMean Annual Salary10% Percentile25% PercentileMedian75% Percentile90% Percentile
Chattanooga, TN-GA60$17.29$35,970$24,470$28,230$35,090$43,370$50,650
Clarksville, TN-KY60$19.66$40,900$24,370$29,120$40,210$53,590$59,680
Johnson City, TN50$16.16$33,610$23,310$26,980$32,090$38,650$47,940
Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol, TN-VA70$20.04$41,690$27,930$34,150$41,890$49,730$57,140
Knoxville, TN250$17.73$36,870$25,610$32,540$36,740$41,720$48,470
Memphis, TN-MS-AR220$17.34$36,080$25,840$28,190$33,170$40,010$53,330
Morristown, TN**$13.40$27,860$16,200$17,420$19,450$39,800$50,060
Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin, TN710$18.01$37,460$22,690$28,400$39,970$46,240$50,010

Working as an Optician in Tennessee

As a licensed optician in Tennessee, you will have many options for work as this career continues to grow. The most common workplace for an optician is an optometry office. There they assist optometrists by working with patients to measure them for frames, to pick out frames, to show them how to use contact lenses and to fill prescriptions. Opticians may also be hired by clinics and hospitals, doctors’ offices, and any retail store that sells glasses and frames. With just two to three years of education and training you could be ready to land a great job as a licensed optician in Tennessee.

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College Programs

Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN Area

Lipscomb University

One University Park Drive, Nashville, Tennessee 37204-3951
(615) 966-1000
Pre-medical Studies – Bachelor Program

Lipscomb University’s Bachelor-level Pre-medical Studies program is offered at their campus in the city of Nashville, Tennessee. This is a full, 4-year private college with 4,680 students, of which 65% are undergraduates. The university is institutionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges. The retention rate of full-time students at this college is 84%. The cost of tuition is likely to be in the order of $30,932 yearly. Learning materials may cost about $1,500, although this will vary with the program.

Eastern Tennessee Nonmetropolitan Area Area

Roane State Community College

276 Patton Lane, Harriman, Tennessee 37748
(865) 354-3000
Opticianry – Associate Program

The Associate’s degree program in Opticianry at Roane State Community College is offered at their campus in the town of Harriman. This public college has round 5,861 students in total, with the majority of students on 2-year programs. The college is institutionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges. Fees for tuition are usually about $4,143 per year. Study materials can cost in the order of $1,500, depending on the program chosen.

Memphis, TN-MS-AR Area

Southern College of Optometry

1245 Madison Ave, Memphis, Tennessee 38104-2211
(901) 722-3200
Optometry – Doctor Program

Southern College of Optometry’s Doctor program in Optometry is based at their campus in the city of Memphis, TN. Of the 528 students, about 100% are postgraduates. The college is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges.

* Tuition fees and colleges’ accredition status are, to the best of our knowledge, correct at the time of writing, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (http://nces.ed.gov/). Confirm directly with college before applying.

Neighbor States

Residents of Tennessee may also wish to review their options in Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and Missouri.