Like most jobs, an optician’s salary varies based upon location, experience and education level. However, there is a significant amount of parity among many optician salaries. Optician jobs can be gained through an apprenticeship or obtaining a one-year optician certification from a post-secondary school. Gaining an Associate’s Degree in Ophthalmic Dispensing is another pathway to employment as an optician.Optician Salary
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There are several factors that go into how much a vision care center can afford to pay its opticians. Some individually-owned and operated vision care centers have to account for overhead costs, rent and other essentialities. This could impact what it can afford to pay its opticians. Then, there are franchised vision care stores, who have a set rate for their opticians. These set pay rates are typically determined by those working in the company’s corporate offices.
There are also private medical practices that call for the need of an optician. These can be lucrative practices and may allow owners to pay a little more than the average optician salary. However, there is no pay standard that universally applies to all opticians. That means opticians may find a fluctuating range of salaries, although national averages provide a ballpark figure of what opticians can expect to earn over the course of a year.
How Much do Opticians Make?
The national average salary for dispensing opticians is $37,860 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That sum is not the ceiling of what opticians can earn, but the mean figure when calculating salaries from all states. The state of Massachusetts is home to the highest paid opticians in the country, with an average salary of $60,740 annually. New Jersey is next in line with an average yearly salary of $53,770. Coming in third is New York with an average salary of $51,290 followed by Rhode Island ($47,560) and Alaska ($44,770). Of those states, only New York is in the top five states with the highest number of opticians.
California leads the way with 8,040 dispensing opticians, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The next highest optician population is found in the state of Texas (6,430) followed by Florida (4,930), New York (3,450) and Michigan (3,370). Some states have very small concentrations of opticians as Wyoming checks in with just 240 dispensing opticians. However, all states are seeing dramatic increases in the number of new dispensing opticians every year.
By the year 2024, there is expected to be a 24% job growth among dispensing opticians. One of the reasons for that increase is the rise of the elderly population in the United States. Many people will experience more problems with their eyes as they age, calling for continual eye care. That has raised the demand for opticians in what is an ever-expanding field.
An optician is someone who is considered a vision expert and trained to dispense eyewear based upon prescriptions issued by ophthalmologists or optometrists. Opticians are entrusted with fitting contact lenses, frames and eyeglasses. This is done by taking a prescription and turning it into corrective eyewear. The role of an optician also extends to customer service as interaction with the public is a requisite part of the job.
An optician can become certified by taking a national certification exam. The American Board of Opticianry (ABO) issues certifications to opticians and the National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE) provides certifications to ophthalmic dispensers who pass the necessary examinations. Some vision care centers demand that their opticians be certified while some states require opticians to be licensed by a state board. There are currently 21 states that require dispensing opticians to hold a license.
Vision care centers do not have one universal certification that is required, although 28% of employers require their opticians to be certified, according to the American Board of Opticianry. Those findings also indicate that 75% of employers prefer hiring certified opticians. Furthermore, most state boards administer licensing exams that are provided by the ABO and NCLE.
States that are home to non-licensed opticians leave the hiring criteria up to the individual business. However, holding a certification and receiving formal educational training in opticianry increases the odds of obtaining a job.
Optician School and Education
An education in opticianry is available through a one-year certificate program and most vision care centers recognize this kind of training. Those who are looking for more of an in-depth education can choose to go the two-year route and earn an Associate’s Degree in Ophthalmic Dispensing. In each of these programs, students learn about the anatomy of the eye, contact lens dispensing and technology, how to use optician tools, and much more.
There is also the option of entering into an apprenticeship program. These are offered by vision care centers as opticians learn under the supervision of optometrists and ophthalmologists. These apprenticeships can last anywhere from six months to a year and are considered on-the-job training. Some apprentices will be offered jobs by the vision care center that runs the apprenticeship. This is a form of real-world training in which apprentices interact with customers and the vision care team on a daily basis.
Optician vs Optometrist
It is common for people to confuse an optician and an optometrist, but the jobs are very different. An optician’s training is well below that of an optometrist, who is required to undergo eight years of schooling. The roles are also very different as optometrists make diagnoses and write prescriptions. Meanwhile, opticians carry out the requests of optometrists, performing duties such as fitting eyewear and repairing broken frames. The pay scale between the two is also drastically different as optometrists make an average salary that is more than double that of opticians.
Contact Lens Society of America
This society was created to enhance the promotion of contact lens technology throughout the country.
The ABO is an excellent source of opticianry information and also has details on the certification process.
Opticians Association of America
This association represents the opticianry business and is dedicated to its advancement.
The National Academy of Opticianry
This organization is committed to the improvement of education and service among opticians.