Becoming an Optician in Virginia

Virginia has many great career opportunities for anyone willing to train and learn to become a licensed optician. An optician is the professional responsible for helping optometry and ophthalmology patients fill prescriptions, fit frames and learn about their lenses. The career is growing strongly in the state, so there will be plenty of positions available for qualified opticians for the next several years.[En Español]

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Licensing for Opticians in Virginia

Virginia is one state that requires opticians be licensed in order to practice and work with patients. Licenses are awarded by the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation’s Board for Hearing Aid Specialists and Opticians. The Board requires that applicants for a license have completed either a three-year apprenticeship with one year of coursework or have a degree in opticianry from an accredited school.

With these requirements met, an applicant can then take the American Board of Opticians (ABO) examination to get licensed. The National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE) Contact Lens Registry Examination is optional. A passing score on the NCLE exam allows an optician to work with patients to fit contact lenses.

Virginia Optician Programs

There is just one approved optician degree program in Virginia. This is the only program that can be used to meet the qualifications for licensing without an apprenticeship. A shorter, certificate program in opticianry can be used as the one-year requirement for coursework along with a three-year apprenticeship.

  • Reynolds Community College, Richmond. Reynolds is the approved degree program for optician licensing in Virginia. Completion of this two-year associate degree program prepares students to pass the ABO exam and get licensed in the state. One hundred percent of graduates pass the ABO and NCLE exams and most become successfully licensed. Reynolds also has a year-long certificate program that can be used along with an apprenticeship to apply for licensing.
  • Southwest Virginia Community College, Richlands. The one-year certificate program in paraoptometric studies at Southwest Virginia can also be used as the one-year coursework requirement. To get licensed, this must be combined with an apprenticeship.
  • Penn Foster Career School. For those who cannot access a college campus, the online optician program at Penn Foster can serve as the required year of coursework. Students who choose this option will still need to find and complete an apprenticeship position.

Outlook and Salaries for Opticians in Virginia

The outlook for optician careers in Virginia is positive. Statistics show there were 2,120 opticians working there in 2014 and that there are expected to be 2,670 by 2024. This increase in positions is a 25.6 percent growth. It means there will be over 500 new jobs for those who are training to become opticians right now.

These new opticians can also expect to earn a good living in this career. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the average salary for an optician in Virginia in 2017 was $44,940 per year and $21.60 per hour. There is room for opticians to earn more than this average amount, with NCLE endorsement, with more years of experience or depending on employer.

Salaries in Virginia by Occupation

ProfessionEmploymentMean Hourly WageMean Annual Wage
Opticians, Dispensing1,780$21.60$44,940
Ophthalmic Medical Technicians**$19.75$41,090
Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians680$15.54$32,330
Optometrists1,370$61.51$127,940

Certified Dispensing Optician Salaries in Virginia by Region

RegionTotal EmploymentMean Hourly WageMean Annual Salary10% Percentile25% PercentileMedian75% Percentile90% Percentile
Harrisonburg, VA30$21.59$44,900$40,510$42,350$45,350$48,360$50,210
Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol, TN-VA70$20.04$41,690$27,930$34,150$41,890$49,730$57,140
Lynchburg, VA50$18.86$39,240$27,450$31,430$38,140$46,290$55,840
Richmond, VA260$20.43$42,500$26,850$35,420$43,230$49,200$58,470
Roanoke, VA**$23.58$49,040$34,890$41,110$44,770$48,420$50,640
Staunton-Waynesboro, VA60$22.66$47,130$39,220$42,050$46,610$52,500$59,230
Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC340$21.05$43,790$32,340$38,780$44,570$49,960$57,430
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV1,660$20.50$42,640$26,920$31,450$40,850$51,190$61,740

Working as an Optician in Virginia

There are plenty of job opportunities for licensed opticians in Virginia, which makes this a great career to get started in for young people or those looking for a career change. Most opticians work in optometry offices or retail stores that sell frames and fill lens prescriptions. They may also work in doctors’ offices or in other medical settings, like hospitals. The greatest opportunities to be hired as an optician are in larger cities, like Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake and Richmond.

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College Programs

Richmond, VA Area

J Sargeant Reynolds Community College

1651 East Parham Road, Richmond, Virginia 23228-2327
(804) 371-3000
Opticians Apprentice – Certificate Program, Opticianry – Associate Program

J Sargeant Reynolds Community College offers multiple training options, including a Certificate program and an Associate program. All programs are imparted at their campus in Richmond in Henrico County. The college has roughly 10,889 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. Tuition fees are around $4,886 for each academic year, while books and supplies may cost about $1,600, although this varies from program to program.

Southwestern Virginia Nonmetropolitan Area Area

Southwest Virginia Community College

369 College Road US Rt. 19, 6 Miles S. Claypool Hill, Richlands, Virginia 24641-1101
(276) 964-2555
Paraoptometric – Certificate Program

The Certificate program in Paraoptometric at Southwest Virginia Community College is offered at their campus in Richlands in Tazewell County, VA. This public college has in the region of 2,563 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. The cost of tuition is generally in the order of $4,591 annually. Books and supplies can cost around $1,200, although this will depend on the program.

* 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

See options in Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina.