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]
Licensing and National Optician Certification in Virginia
Virginia is one state that requires opticians to be licensed 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.
National Contact Lens Examiners Exam
The National Contact Lens Examiners exam is a two-part, computerized examination. The first part covers topics such as optical theory and contact lens care. The second part focuses on fitting contact lenses to the patient’s eye. An optician must pass both parts of the exam to become certified by NCLE.
American Board of Opticians Exam
The American Board of Opticians exam is a multiple-choice examination composed of two parts. Part one covers topics such as optical theory and terminology, contact lenses, ocular anatomy, lensometry, frame selection, and dispensing techniques. Part two focuses on practical skills such as measuring a patient’s eye for frames or fitting contacts. An applicant must pass both parts of the exam to become certified by ABO.
Continuing Education Requirements
Once an optician is licensed in Virginia, he or she must complete 16 hours of continuing education every two years to remain licensed. The continuing education courses must be approved by the Board for Hearing Aid Specialists and Opticians and can include topics such as patient care, frame styles, and contact lens fitting.
Optician Certification Training 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 College. For those who cannot access a college campus, the online optician exam prep 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 2,050 opticians were working there in 2020 and that there are expected to be 2,510 by 2030. This increase in positions is a 22 percent growth. It means there will be over 220 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 2021 was $47,440 per year and $22.81 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 the employer.
Salaries in Virginia by Occupation
|Profession||Employment||Mean Hourly Wage||Mean Annual Wage|
|Ophthalmic Medical Technicians||**||$19.75||$41,090|
|Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians||680||$15.54||$32,330|
Certified Dispensing Optician Salaries in Virginia by Region
|Region||Total Employment||Mean Hourly Wage||Mean Annual Salary||10% Percentile||25% Percentile||Median||75% Percentile||90% Percentile|
|Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC||340||$21.05||$43,790||$32,340||$38,780||$44,570||$49,960||$57,430|
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 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.
- Charlottesville, VA
- Richmond, VA
- Roanoke, VA
- Southwestern Virginia Nonmetropolitan Area
- Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC
- Winchester, VA-WV
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.
369 College Road US Rt. 19, 6 Miles S. Claypool Hill, Richlands, Virginia 24641-1101
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 a 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’ accreditation 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 the college before applying.