What Is a Licensed Optician?

If you like helping and educating people in the way of wearing eyeglasses and/or contact lenses, working as a dispensing optician may be the job for you. Though you wouldn't be making diagnoses or performing surgeries, you would work with an optometrist to provide eye care to customers. Some states require licensing to perform the duties of an optician. Keep reading to learn more. Schools offering Optician degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Responsibilities of a Licensed Optician

Often known as dispensing opticians, these professionals are responsible for working one-on-one with clients to discuss their eye care needs and assist them in eyeglass selection based on the testing done by an optometrist. Using an optometrist's prescription and the customer's choice, you might order the necessary lenses and frames, fit the lenses into the frames (including fabricating and grinding the lenses), apply special coatings if necessary, adjust the frames for the client, discuss with the customer how to care for their eyewear and make any repairs to glasses as necessary.

You can also work with clients who wear contacts by recommending certain brands and showing them how to properly wear and care for them. Moreover, there are administrative duties that you would perform as a dispensing optician, which include maintaining and managing client records, promoting frames and lens sales, keeping track of what is in stock, handling insurance billing and completing work orders.

Important Facts About Licensed Opticians

On-the-Job Training Apprenticeship that typically lasts two years
Professional Certification Available through the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) and National Content Lens Examiners (NCLE)
Key Skills Oral and written communication, reading comprehension, customer service focused, critical thinking, decision making, attentive listening
Similar Occupations Optometrists, orthodontists, prosthetists, dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians, jewelers, precious stone, and metal workers

Education Requirements

To become an optician, you'll typically need a high school diploma and some on-the-job training. Some of the duties you'll learn to perform as part of your training could include measuring a customer's eyes and adjusting frames. You may also be taught sales techniques and office management skills. Alternatively, you could attend a community college or technical school and enroll in a formal opticianry program. These programs could lead to a certificate or associate's degree and may include courses in eye physiology, optics, ophthalmic dispensing, ophthalmic materials and business management. You may also be required to gain hands-on experience through a practicum.

Licensing Procedure

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of 2015, only about half of the states required dispensing opticians to obtain a license (www.bls.gov). These states have varying requirements, but obtaining a license usually involves taking a state written exam, state practical exam and/or the certification exam administered by the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) and National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE). You'll also need to complete the appropriate education through postsecondary schooling or an apprenticeship. Depending on your state, renewal procedures and continuing education requirements will vary. The Opticians Association of America offers a complete list of state requirements.

Job Outlook

The BLS predicted that employment of opticians would increase 15% from 2016 to 2026. A greater demand for eye care services is expected due to an aging population. Awareness of the importance of eye exams may also lead to an increased demand for opticians. The BLS reported that as of May 2018, opticians earned a median annual wage of $37,010.

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