What Does an Optical Manager Do?

An optical manager is a dispensing optician who also performs managerial duties within an optical practice. In short, the optical manager is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the optical center while also being qualified to do optician-related work such as adjusting, fixing and dispensing eyewear to patients. In return for this increased responsibility, the optical manager receives a higher rate of pay.

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What Tasks Do Optical Managers Perform in an Optical Center?

The typical tasks of optical managers include handling payroll and benefits, controlling inventory, handling scheduling, hiring employees, ensuring customer satisfaction and overseeing staff in the optical center.

An average optical center has several types of professionals who serve different roles within the practice. The optical manager might be responsible for clerical staff, insurance billing and accounting personnel, receptionists, and other opticians. Depending on whether the optical center is a dispensing location or a complete center for vision care, an office might also have ophthalmologists, nurses, ophthalmic technologists, ophthalmic technicians and assistants.

Optical manager jobs can be demanding and fast-paced, with many responsibilities, placing them under a great deal of stress. If you already have a background in retail, you may be well-suited for a job as an optical manager, although training as an optician is also a must for the profession. Optical managers need to be prepared to work in the eye care center, provide customer assistance, show eyeglasses to patients and help any other optician in the business with any questions or problems that might arise while they are preparing and dispensing eyewear.

What Skills Does an Optical Manager Need?

If you are considering a career as an optical manager, you will want to have excellent communication skills and a solid knowledge of business practices and operations. In addition, you will need to be comfortable managing others as they perform their jobs while still ensuring that the eye care customers your company works with are satisfied with their experiences and products. As an optical manager, you will also need to become educated as an optician before being qualified to run an optical center.

Optical Managers: Small Business Ownership versus a Job in a Large Chain Store

In addition to the day-to-day tasks of running an optical center, optical managers who choose a job in larger, corporation-run eye-care practices will need to answer to corporate managers. Large companies will often decide which insurance companies to accept and what inventory to carry. In general, a large company may be very focused on profits over customers. In such cases, the job of an optical manager might include finding a balance between customer needs and corporate demand.

By contrast, those who find a job in a smaller business, or own their own business, will be able to have more freedom to choose and manage their inventory, set staff salaries and decide which insurance companies with which they will contract.

What Type of Education Does an Optical Manager Need?

If you want to find a job as an optician and eventually be promoted to an optical manager job, you will need to acquire the necessary skills. However, before you can begin vocational training, a high school diploma or equivalent is required. As an optical manager, you will need good reading comprehension, an aptitude for critical thinking and some comfort with mathematics.

Optician training is offered through various post-secondary educational programs. If becoming an optical manager is one of your goals, a higher level of education will generally allow for better career opportunities. Attending the entire two to four years of training will help prepare you for the responsibilities you will encounter as an optical manager. Optician degree programs will usually award an Associate in Applied Science degree.

Should an Optician Pursue On-The-Job Training if They Hope to Become a Manager?

To become an optical manager, you will not necessarily need to attend a college or trade school. Many opticians learn to perform their specific eye-care duties through on-the-job training. However, if you choose to train through an optician program, it will undoubtedly help you gain critical skills for a successful future career managing an office. In addition, a degree will boost your chances of being promoted to an optical manager position after a few years of service.

What are Some of the Best Optician Training Programs?

As a future optical manager, you may want to search for a business-oriented course. If one is unavailable, prospective optical managers might explore taking a few management courses at a local community college or business school. The top-rated programs for opticians offer associates and bachelors’ degrees. Here are a few optician programs located throughout the United States:

Career Outlook for Opticians

Optician careers, which include optical managers, are facing significant growth, with Projections Central predicting an additional 5,400 jobs during the 10 years between 2018 and 2028. This data translates to a 7.2 percent increase and an average of 6,600 job openings annually. These jobs could be due to a rise in industry demand, leading to an increase in optical centers and vision care companies throughout the country.

Optician Salaries: What Is the Average Salary for an Optician?

Optician careers, including optical managers, are tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS collects yearly data about the average salaries for various jobs. According to the most recent pay data, compiled in May of 2020, the average annual salary for opticians was $41,380. The salary range in the same year was $26,080 to $62,180.

Opticians, including optical managers, typically find a job in health practitioner offices, health care stores, physicians’ offices and outpatient care centers. However, the highest-paying jobs for opticians and optical managers are found in professional and commercial equipment supplies, employment services, industry machine manufacturing and universities. In addition to salary, an optical manager will typically expect to have significant job benefits such as health insurance, dental insurance and probably even eye coverage.

Optical Managers on the Job

An optical manager will usually start as an optician before being promoted to a management position. The process of becoming promoted from optician to optical manager will usually take many years. It can help to have the support of a mentor as you learn the skills of the trade. For example, if you are a new graduate and new hire, the managers under whom you work may be able to help you gain the skills and knowledge you will need as an optical manager.

Optical managers work as part of a team, keeping an eye care center running smoothly and supporting the office staff in their day-to-day duties. The benefits of this job are many. As an optical manager, you will enjoy the satisfaction of performing variable tasks. These tasks can relate to the many different aspects of keeping your eye care location running smoothly, like patient care, insurance approval, hiring and supervising others as they perform their jobs.