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Those who want to help people improve their vision will typically choose between a handful of careers. They can mostly choose to become ophthalmologists, optometrists, opticians, or ophthalmic laboratory technicians. All these professionals perform a different set of tasks that work toward the same goal: improving their clients’ eye health.
In this article, we’ll give you all the information you need to know regarding optician jobs. You will be familiarized with the perks of the profession, its average salary, job outlook, necessary education and training, advancement options, and much more, so you can decide whether this career path is for you or not.
About Optician Jobs
What Do Opticians Do?
Opticians are responsible for fitting contact lenses and eyeglasses for patients based on the prescriptions written by optometrists and ophthalmologists. Apart from that, the average optician job description includes helping customers decide which contact lenses or glasses frames they should get.
It’s important to know that opticians are not certified eye doctors, meaning they can’t give eye exams. They usually have a certificate or a 2-year degree.
Not all of them are licensed, as only around half of the states require these professionals to have a license. Apart from that, a significant number of them will take up managerial roles, and start focusing more on sales and inventory management.
Optician Job Duties
An optician will generally perform several different tasks.
- Upon receiving the prescriptions for contacts or eyeglasses, an optician will take measurements of their customers’ faces and eyes (for example, pupillary distance).
- They will also help a client choose between different frames and lens treatments (think eyewear for occupational use, tints, coatings, etc.) based on given prescriptions, needs, and preferences.
- They will create and submit work orders so that ophthalmic laboratory technicians can start making lenses. The orders also provide the necessary information about the required lenses.
- An optician job will also include adjusting eyewear to make sure it fits right, as well as replacing or fixing broken frames.
- Opticians also give customers vital information about eyewear—basic maintenance tasks for their contact lenses, for example.
- They perform related business tasks as well, like keeping track of sales records, supervising prescriptions, and keeping track of stock.
- In some cases, they can also prepare custom orders themselves, cutting lenses and inserting them into the frames. This, however, is not typical.
Optician Job Types
Most of the time, opticians will either work in their private practice (and partner up with an eye doctor) or at an ophthalmologist’s practice, as a vital part of the team.
People in the United States who intend to get optician jobs should know that around 73,800 positions were held in this area of expertise in 2019. Most opticians (around 41%) worked in optometrists’ offices, while 29% worked in health and personal care stores. Another 10% worked in physicians’ offices, while only 3% of them were self-employed. Opticians working in an optometry team work closely together with optometrists and ophthalmologists to give professional eye care to patients.
Injuries and Illnesses
As stated earlier, optician jobs don’t require the individual to diagnose and assess treatment options for patients. Instead, opticians rely on optometrists’ and ophthalmologists’ instructions, who decide on the best course of action.
They help prepare the lenses or eyeglasses for their clients in accordance with the prescriptions they receive. As such, they can also assist their customers in making different choices and decisions regarding frames and contacts, based on individual preferences and needs.
Most optical positions require a full-time commitment, and this especially goes for opticians working for larger retail establishments. People in these stores may have to work during the weekends, sometimes evenings too. Although most of these positions are full-time ones, part-time employment opportunities can occasionally be found as well.
How to Become an Optician
Now that we’ve covered the basic information, you need to be acquainted with the duties of this profession, but also with the educational and training requirements for such a position.
Being an exemplary professional in this field isn’t just a matter of education, training, and licenses. These people should also possess a long list of other crucial qualities that make them stand out from the rest.
- Communication skills: An optician job will require exceptional communication capabilities since opticians must be attentive listeners so as to meet their patients’ and customers’ needs. Also, they must clearly explain basic care instructions in a way that’s easy to grasp.
- Business skills: In many cases, opticians are responsible for the business side of things in an optical store. As such, they should make related decisions with ease and have knowledge of inventory management and sales.
- Skills in customer-service: These experts may find themselves in a situation where they have to learn and know quite a lot about the products they’re selling. As they constantly interact with customers, they should be knowledgeable, patient, friendly, and helpful.
- Decision-making: As an optician, your job duties will also include determining the adjustments that should be made to customers’ contacts or glasses. They should also know which materials and styles would serve their customers best, based on given requirements.
- Dexterity: As opticians use special and delicate tools quite often to adjust or repair glasses, they should have impeccable hand-eye coordination to get the job done quickly and reliably.
Optician Education and Training
Opticians will mostly have a high school diploma along with an on-the-job training certificate. There are also people who enter the job market with a community college or technical school certificate, or an associate’s degree. Moreover, around half of all US states will require opticians to have a license.
Those who receive on-the-job training will measure their customers’ eyes and adjust the frames under the supervision of experienced professionals. In most cases, trainees will also receive additional training in office management and sales. These apprentice programs usually last about two years or more. If you are on your way to becoming a professional optician, your career will benefit remarkably from this work experience.
A significant number of opticians will opt for completing a postsecondary program usually provided by technical schools or community colleges. These programs usually include traditional classroom sessions accompanied by clinical experience. Candidates will learn about optics, math, business management, and eye physiology to master the craft. Also, as previously mentioned, they will participate in supervised clinical work to receive hands-on experience in the field.
The National Academy of Opticianry offers the OCPP (or Ophthalmic Career Progression Program), which enables people already in the profession to prepare for further certification and licensure exams. This way, they can advance their career and give it a strong boost, as well as achieve a better source of income. So, as you can see, if you want to become an optician, your education will be quite diverse.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registration
Some opticians may choose to advance and become certified in eyeglass and/or contact lens dispensing. This requires them to pass the American Board of Opticianry and National Contact Lens Examiners exams. In those states where opticians are required to be licensed, they must renew their license every 1–3 years and regularly participate in related educational programs, such as seminars and workshops.
How do I find non licensed optician jobs near me?
As already mentioned before, around half of the states in the US require a license from opticians. Getting a license usually requires completing an approved program or completing an apprenticeship and usually passing one or more exams. The dedicated licensing board in each state can give out further information regarding licensing, and all those looking for non-licensed jobs should first check whether the state they reside in requires licenses or not.
Those looking for optician career advancements will find a somewhat straightforward career path that will lead them more toward entrepreneurship than healthcare. More often than not, advancement involves becoming a store manager or eventually opening a business. Others can choose to become representatives and wholesalers for contact lens or eyeglass brands.
Those who aren’t really intrigued by the profession’s business side can perfect their craft even further to gain more experience and get a master optician salary. These professionals will usually become the most skilled and most experienced opticians in a private practice or a store. They may even get a chance to provide training for newly-hired colleagues.
Optician Jobs Salary
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, as an optician, the average salary you could expect is around $37,840. More precisely, this is the figure the Bureau listed for May 2019. The optician salary earned by the lowest 10% amounted to less than $25,640 a year, while the highest 10% managed to earn as much as $60,840 on average.
In the same period, the median annual pay for opticians was the highest in physicians’ offices ($42,010), while the second-best place to work money-wise was in health and personal care stores (with a median annual wage of $37,760). In this respect, those who worked in optometrists’ offices managed to earn the lowest annual median wage. In these places, the median optician technician salary was $36,370.
Employment opportunities for opticians are projected to grow by approximately 4% within the 2019–2029 period. The driving motivation behind this optician job outlook is the fact that the older population will probably demand more intricate and reliable eye care or low vision aids. The majority of eye problems are more or less age-related, meaning that as the number of seniors increases, there will be a more prominent need for opticians.
On the other hand, as the rates of chronic diseases like diabetes rise, there will be an increased demand for these services as well, since certain chronic conditions are known to lead to vision impairment. Optical employment will therefore grow visibly, since more professionals will be needed to manage the increased demand efficiently and help people prevent further damage of their eyesight.
As mentioned above, only around half of the states in the US require opticians to have a license. If you want the process of job hunting to be facilitated even further, google “optician jobs near me” to see what’s waiting for you out there, depending on the state you’re in.
Applicants can also land jobs without previous experience or qualifications in offices or stores where they can receive adequate training under the supervision of a seasoned professional. However, those serious about this career path can always work their way to an associate’s degree from an accredited program along with the necessary ABO and NCLE certifications. This will significantly increase their chances of getting the job they want and a licensed optician salary.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is an optician a good job?
First of all, the answer depends on what a particular person would consider to be a good job. The career of an optician can be a great starting point for those who have a knack for entrepreneurship—who plan to run a business or operate optical sales and manage inventory for a larger optical practice or a department store.
It can also be a great path for those who want to take up something new and land part time optician jobs. Qualifying as an optician is less complicated and faster than qualifying as an optometrist, for instance. Also, it can help professionals generate more income and open new doors in the field of business.
What do you do as an optician?
Generally speaking, opticians help patients and customers find fitting eyeglasses and contacts based on their prescriptions. They also help customers decide which frames and contacts they should get which would best accommodate and complement their lifestyle and needs. Furthermore, opticians are responsible for measuring customers’ faces and eyes to get the best fitting frames, and making adjustments to the contacts and lenses using special tools.
Apart from this, dispensing optician jobs will also require you to be handy with sales and inventory management as you’ll most probably assume a more managerial role as you progress in your career. That being said, some opticians will eventually open their own private practice, which will require them to know the basics of business, along with the ins and outs of entrepreneurship.
How much does an optician make in the UK?
In the United Kingdom, the average yearly pay for an optician is around £27,923, according to the data made up of anonymously submitted optician salaries and job advertisements.
What qualifications do you need for an optician?
Qualifications will mostly depend on the employer and the given state where the job is being advertised. More precisely, some practices will hire employees with a high school diploma and provide the necessary optician training themselves. In other cases, employers will require the candidate to possess a certificate and/or have attained an associate’s degree.
Lastly, certain states will also require a license from opticians. Those concerned about qualifications and licenses should always check the requirements of the given state and employer when doing research.
All in all, equipping yourself with these specific details about optician jobs is a solid start if you wish to follow this path. Whether you already have the necessary licenses and qualifications or not, knowing what to expect from any area of expertise is always a good idea.