How Can I Become an Optometry Technician?

Research what it takes to become an optometry technician. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average wages and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Optician degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Optometry Technician?

Optometry technicians assist eye doctors with many duties, such as fitting patients for eyewear, conducting non-invasive eye exams and keeping records. The can work in the office of an optometrist or ophthalmologist, or find employment in a health or personal care retail store. Optometry technicians follow a doctor's prescription and interact directly with patients on a daily basis. Therefore, if you're considering this career, you should enjoy working with people, and have good customer service skills. You can gain the skills specific to optometry technicians through on-the-job training, or by completing a certificate program.

The following chart gives you an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Degree Required High school diploma (or equivalent)
Key Responsibilities Conduct preliminary exams
Assist patients' selection of eyeglasses
Perform clerical duties
Licensure/Certification Required Licensure required in many states
Training Required Long-term on-the-job training
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 24%*
Average Salary (2015) $36,820*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Will I Do as an Optometry Technician?

As an optometry technician, also known as a dispensing optician, you'll assist an optometrist by conducting preliminary, non-invasive eye exams, among other duties. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), you might measure the size and shape of the eyes to fit new glasses or contacts to patients' eyes (www.bls.gov). You'll then help patients select eyeglass frames based on the type of lenses prescribed by the optometrist as well as the patient's style and color preferences. You'll also teach patients how to use and care for their new eyeglasses or contact lenses.

Optometry technicians may perform clerical duties, such as scheduling patient appointments or keeping records. You might confirm insurance coverage, order glasses or contact lenses from manufacturing laboratories and process payments. You may also maintain inventory and order supplies. While laboratory technicians usually grind lenses and place them into frames, some optometry technicians handle these tasks themselves.

What Are the Requirements?

Some optometry technicians prepare for this career through apprenticeship programs offered by their employers; however, many employers prefer to hire applicants with formal education, according to the BLS. Some community and 4-year colleges offer certificate- and associate-degree programs in optician technology. Courses such as physiology, anatomy, algebra and computer science are all helpful in finding employment in this field. The American Optometric Association (AMA) recommends that optometry technicians earn paraoptometric certification to demonstrate job skills and enhance professionalism (www.aoa.org).

The BLS reports that 22 states require licensing of dispensing opticians, or optometric technicians. Licensure often entails graduation from a postsecondary program or completion of a 2-4-year apprenticeship. Candidates must then pass state-administered practical and written examinations or a certification exam administered by the American Board of Opticianry and the National Contact Lens Examiners. You might be required to maintain licensure by completing continuing education.

How Much Can I Earn?

The BLS reported an annual average salary of $36,820 in May 2015 for dispensing opticians, including optometry technicians. Most of these professionals worked in offices of other health practitioners and earned on average $34,800 per year. Many opticians also worked in health and personal-care stores, which offered an average wage of $38,060. The BLS also reports that full-time opticians and those that work in larger retail shops tend to receive more benefits.

What Is the Job Outlook?

According to the BLS, there were approximately 75,200 opticians employed in the U.S. in 2014. Employment of these professionals is expected to increase 24% between 2014 and 2024. There will continue to be an increased need for eye care due to an aging population as well as the recognition of the importance of eye exams for children and the elderly; however, employment growth may be stunted by increasing prevalence of corrective laser surgery. Optometry technicians with formal training and certification are expected to see the best job prospects.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If the healthcare industry interests you but you don't necessarily want to work directly with patients, you could become a dental or ophthalmic laboratory technician. Entry-level jobs in either industry are available upon completion of high school. These laboratory technicians make or repair appliances or devices used for correcting patients' dental or eye issues. Examples of these appliances include eyeglasses, prosthetics, and dentures, but the specifics depend on the field in which you choose to work.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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