Optician: Career Summary, Occupational Outlook, and Educational Requirements

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue as an optician. Read on to learn more about career options along with salary and licensure information. Schools offering Optician degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Do Opticians Do?

Eye doctors require aides to perform preliminary work before eye exams and to create eyewear or contacts for patients after an exam. As an optician, you use the prescriptions written by optometrists or ophthalmologists as a guide to choosing and fitting eyeglasses for patients. In addition to measuring, constructing, and repairing eyewear, opticians perform basic administrative and clerical tasks.

See the table below for more information about the career of optician:

Degree RequiredH.S. diploma or its equivalent.,
associate's (2-year) degree,
or apprenticeship under guidance of ophtalmologist or optometrist
Education Field of StudyOpticianry
Key ResponsibilitiesWrite instructions on grinding and mounting lenses for formulating laboratory,
Take patient measurements to ensure eyeglasses fit properly,
Select frames appropriate to the patient's prescription,
Ensure completed lenses fit patient well,
Adjust frame to fit patient's face correctly
Licensure/CertificationLicensure required by some states
Certification optional
Job Growth (2014-2024)24%*
Mean Salary (2015)$36,820*

Source:*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will I Do as an Optician?

As an optician, you use the prescriptions written by optometrists or ophthalmologists to choose and fit eyeglasses for patients. You may consider a patient's facial features, lifestyle and occupation to suggest certain frame types or lens coatings. Duties in the field include measuring various physical features of your patient, such as their nose bridge, temples, cornea and pupillary distance. Once you have gathered the necessary information, you either write an order for an ophthalmic laboratory technician to prepare the eyeglass lenses and frame, or you may prepare them yourself. You then verify that the finished eyeglasses meet the proper specifications and fit your patient properly.

Additionally, part of your job involves repairing and refitting eyeglasses. You also give patients instructions regarding the proper care and usage of their eyeglasses. Administrative duties, such as keeping records of prescriptions, payments, inventory and work orders, are also common. If you want to help select and fit contact lenses for patients, you may need to undergo additional training.

What are the Job Expectations?

Employment of opticians is expected to grow 24% between 2014 and 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Job prospects should be very good due to the increase in the elderly population and their need for eyeglasses or corrective lenses. The fact that many people now spend a lot of time looking at computer monitors is also expected to increase the need for eye care services. Job prospects may be somewhat tempered by vision correction surgery and technologies that allow opticians to increase their productivity. Opticians who have completed a formal training program, earned certification and are familiar with new technologies are expected to experience the most favorable job prospects. The mean salary in 2015 was $36,820 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Level of Education Is Required?

To become an optician, you need a minimum of a high school diploma. However, many employers prefer to hire people who have an associate's degree in opticianry (www.bls.gov). While in college, you may take courses in anatomy, mathematics, computers, medical terminology, optical theory, ophthalmic dispensing and contact lens theory. Alternatively, you may complete an apprenticeship under the guidance of an optometrist or ophthalmologist.

Some states require that opticians earn a license. The type of examination required for licensure can vary, but may include a written exam, a practical exam or a certification exam administered by the National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE) or American Board of Opticianry (ABO). Completion of a formal training program, apprenticeship or work experience may also be required. If your state does not require licensure, you may still opt to earn certification from the NCLE or ABO. You will most likely be required to earn continuing education credits to maintain your license or certification.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are many alternative careers for those interested in working at the assistant or technician level of the medical equipment field. Ophthalmic or dental techs, as well as technicians for medical appliances, only need a high school diploma. They are responsible for the construction, maintenance and repair of medical appliances. Orthotists and prosthetists require at least a master's degree. The construct medical devices to aid patients in need of prosthetics or support devices, like braces. For those uninterested in a medical career but who still would like to work with glass and refractive light, jewelers, precious stone workers and metal workers require a similar educational background. In addition, optician careers may be just a stepping stone for someone interest in receiving their Doctor of Optometry.

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:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  • Southern New Hampshire University

    Southern New Hampshire University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Southern New Hampshire University:

    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • Grand Canyon University

    Grand Canyon University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Grand Canyon University:

    • Doctoral

    Online Programs Available

  • Purdue University Global

    Purdue University Global responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Purdue University Global:

    Online Programs Available

  • Penn Foster

    Penn Foster responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Penn Foster:

    • Certificates

    Online Programs Available

  • Penn Foster High School

    Penn Foster High School responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Penn Foster High School:

    Online Programs Available

  • American Career College

    Campus Locations:

    • California: Anaheim, Los Angeles
  • Wiregrass Georgia Technical College

    Campus Locations:

    • Georgia: Valdosta
  • Thomas Nelson Community College

    Campus Locations:

    • Virginia: Hampton
  • Milwaukee Area Technical College

    Campus Locations:

    • Wisconsin: Milwaukee
  • Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute

    Campus Locations:

    • New Mexico: Albuquerque