An optician in Colorado can have many different responsibilities on the job, depending on what type of business they work in. Generally speaking, their duties are related to the fitting and dispensing of glasses and contact lenses, including frames, spectacle lenses, and contacts. They interact with clients (or patients) on a regular basis, offering education to help them decide what is best for their vision needs. The optician is the one responsible for creating the perfect glasses or choosing the perfect contacts for the client.
Typically, the path to becoming an optician involves an apprenticeship, or on-the-job training experience. Some states and/or employers will have requirements for training hours or length of time. Others may not. There is also the option for formal education in the optician career role, but that is not always required. Once someone is trained and educated, they can take the available exams to become licensed as a dispensing optician. This will allow them to work with doctors’ offices, vision stores and retail outlets, department stores, private optical practices, and more.
Colorado opticians do not have to attend any formal education in order to work in their field. Mind, however, that this is only according to state laws. There are no state-level regulations for dispensing opticians, and the expectations will generally be left up to the employers. Two-year associate’s degree programs are available, as are other courses and educational tools to help you learn your new field. A lot of employers (Over 75%) actually want their opticians to have a formal education.
Although it isn’t a requirement for many jobs, or for working in the state, education is always a good idea. Courses will cover things like mathematics and physics, laboratory work, eye health and vision, and more. The hands-on training will provide practical experience in a lab setting, as well as a chance to understand and learn the administrative and customer-centric duties of the role.
OPTICIAN CERTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS
Becoming certified as an optician in Colorado starts by getting educated and getting some practical experience. Then, individuals can sign up for and take one or more of the exams offered by the American Board of Optometry and the National Contact Lens Examiners. These tests cost around $200 each, and the ABO offers three levels of exams: beginner, intermediate, and master.
Many employers include training and testing in their apprenticeship programs, so you should inquire about that before you pay for the classes and exams yourself. Exams can be taken twice a year. The entire process is computer-based, covering prescription analysis, equipment use, patient education, fit and evaluation of contact and spectacle lenses, dispensing of lenses and glasses, and other relevant areas of focus. All of the forms that are needed to sign up for the exams, along with other information and resources, can be found on the ABO website.
COLORADO OPTICIAN LICENSING REQUIREMENTS
Along with 21 other states in the nation, Colorado does not mandate any guidelines for licensing in the field of opticianry. Opticians in Colorado may not be required to get licensed, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t. In fact, as mentioned above, the majority of employers will prefer a licensed candidate over a non-licensed one. This gives the business (and the individual) more credibility in their skills and experience.
The Opticians Association of Colorado also has information about education and licensing for opticians and those who are studying to become them. They offer background and information for employers and opticians alike, including an explanation of the ABO and NCLE, educational resources, benefits of getting certified, and more. Those who get licensed, regardless of whether state requirements are in place or not, are automatically going to be more hireable and credible to future employers. They will also typically earn more than those who are unlicensed or solely learned on the job.
JOB PROSPECTS AND POTENTIAL PAY
In Colorado, opticians can expect an average annual salary around $30,000. This, of course, depends on the level of education and experience, as well as whether the optician is licensed or not. Unlicensed and apprentice opticians earn between $10 and $12 per hour, while those who are licensed or have more experience can earn as much as $16 per hour (or more) for their skills.
Managers are also going to make more in the field of optometry. That is, if you are a dispensing optician that also manages a retail store or medical office, you will have a larger salary commensurate with the bigger scope of job duties and responsibilities. Some of the top-earning opticians in Colorado are those who work as General Manager.
The outlook for this career through 2024 is showing about a 24% rise, which is much faster than the national average. This gives anyone considering this career the opportunity to get their foot in the door either with an apprenticeship or after obtaining an education.
MAINTAINING PROFICIENCY THROUGH CONTINUING EDUCATION
Although there are no requirements for continuing education, this is a field that is constantly evolving and growing. The Opticians Association of Colorado offers plenty of resources to assist with continuing education and career training, including information about seminars and conventions, courses and programs, and more. The American Board of Optometry also hosts an annual convention known as OptiCon, where you can network and learn a lot of valuable information about your field. Online courses and training are another option for continuing education.
Employers may mandate their own continuing education requirements, since the state leaves all of the guidelines up to them. It is important to check with your employer to see what (if any) continuing education courses you need to pursue. Of course, whether it is required or not, it is always going to be in your best interest to get as much education as you can throughout your career so that you are constantly growing with the industry.