Optician training is conducted in a variety of different forms as there is more than one way to become a dispensing optician. The first route does not involve schooling and can be attained through an apprenticeship. Those who are looking to become an optician can take an apprenticeship that requires them to work under an optometrist or ophthalmologist at a vision care center. This is a way of being trained on the job as apprentices gain real world experience. There are no simulations, just the ongoing opportunity to watch real eye doctors work with real clients.
The second training option involves some educational training in a classroom setting. Earning an opticianry certificate is accomplished by completing a post-secondary school training program that typically lasts up to a year in duration. These certificate programs are offered by community colleges, technical institutes and vocational schools across the country. Curriculums are designed to teach students everything they need to know in order to begin working as an optician. This includes a rundown of ophthalmic theories, ocular physiology, anatomy of the eye, contact lens technology and more. A certificate generally serves as an adequate credential to obtain a full-time position as a dispensing optician
The final pathway to becoming a dispensing optician is to attain an Associate’s Degree in Ophthalmic Dispensing. These degrees are relatively new as the Commission of Opticianry Accreditation did not accredit any two-year opticianry programs up until 2010. These are more limited as not every junior college features an Associate’s Degree program in Ophthalmic Dispensing. However, when enrolled in one of these programs, students must complete a two-year curriculum that is heavy with courses in opticianry. This includes classes on Ophthalmic Dispensing, Contact Lens Theory and Geometric Optics.
In addition to attaining an education in opticianry, there is also the option of earning a national certification that is offered by the American Board of Opticianry (ABO). One of these basic examinations is called the National Opticianry Competency Examination (NOCE). The ABO also offers a Contact Lens Registry Examination (CLRE) and when this exam is passed, a certification for contact lens dispensing is issued.
Certifications should not be confused with licenses as they are not one in the same. There are 21 states that require opticians to obtain a license through a state opticianry board. In these states, opticians must complete the necessary requirements as dictated by the state board and they must also renew their license within the specified time frame.
Opticians do not have to be licensed in 29 individual states. This enables those opticians to find employment in any vision care center or private practice. There is no requisite level of education among opticians that is required in these 29 states. It is instead up to the hiring vision center, optometrist or ophthalmologist to establish hiring criteria for their staff of opticians. It is important to note that an optician does not always have to be licensed as location dictates the specifics in that area.
As part of the training process, opticians learn how to use all of the tools that come with this job. This includes detailed instruction in the use of different varieties of pliers which are as follows: Double Nylon Jaw, Angling, Snipe Nose, Axis, and Nose Pad. Training also provides instruction on how to use compression sleeve cutters, hot air frame warmers, and nutdriver sets. Opticians are trained to use other devices like a Pupilometer, which calculates pupillary distance. These tools play a daily function in the technical aspect of an optician’s duties.
Optician Job Duties
The job duties of an optician combine clerical and technical duties while also including customer service responsibilities. Opticians regularly interact with customers as they are the often the first people clients come in contact with when entering a vision care center. Opticians also fit customers with contact lenses and eyeglasses. This is done by following prescriptions issued by an ophthalmologist or optometrist. When fitting customers with eyewear, there is a need to consider their facial structure, features and what kind of work they will be doing while wearing their eyewear. Opticians take all that into consideration and essentially put the finishing touches on the vision care experience.
A dispensing optician has the capability of fixing customer eyeglasses that may have been damaged. This can provide a quick fix for customers and keep them from having to order a new pair of glasses. Opticians attend to contact lens issues as well. Contact lens training prepares opticians to deal with this aspect of the job, although not all opticians have acquired this skill. Customers even benefit from expert advice provided by opticians on how to properly care for their glasses and contact lenses.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for opticians is $37,860 annually. However, some states see that average increase to as much to $60,740 per year. The level of education and type of business plays a major role in determining the exact salary amount for opticians. There is also a bright future in the field as optician job growth is expected to reach 24% by 2024.
Optician vs Optometrist
Training to become an optician takes much less time than what is required of an optometrist. An optometrist is required to complete four years of schooling in an optometry program after earning an undergraduate degree. The completion of that program results in the awarding of a Doctor of Optometry (O.D.). With that distinction comes a significant upgrade in responsibilities as optometrists treat and diagnose patients. An optician works under the direction of an optometrist and does not conduct any type of exams.
American Board of Opticianry and National Contact Lens Examiners
National optician certifications are distributed by this association while a good deal of information is posted on this website.
Opticians Association of America
Almost 100 years old, this association was first introduced to advocate for opticians and continues that cause by offering a wealth of resources.
National Academy of Opticianry
This academy is dedicated to the ongoing advancement, training and education of opticians on a national level.
Commission on Opticianry Accreditation
Learn more about optician accreditation on this comprehensive website that caters to opticians throughout the United States.