How to Become an
Optician

Female optician putting on glasses on a lady

Choosing a career requires a lot of consideration: do you have the skills and personality to excel in a given field? Can you commit to obtaining the education required, and will it be worthwhile depending on the responsibilities and the pay? To find out more about becoming an Optician, read this article!

What Does an Optician Do?

An Optician is a technician who works as part of the eye care team to design, measure and fit devices for eyes, such as lenses, frames and eyeglasses. Opticians work in the offices of optometrists or physicians, as well as in department stores or smaller establishments that sell devices to correct vision.

An Optician is responsible for filling prescriptions that were written by Optometrists and Ophthalmologists for eye correction devices. They provide consultations to clients about selecting the best eyeglasses or contact lenses for their needs. They measure the customers’ facial and eye areas, and design, make and fit appropriate devices. Common responsibilities of an Optician include:

  • Medical tasks, such as being able to read medical prescriptions

  • Technical tasks, such as designing and making devices to correct eyesight

  • Administrative tasks, such as managing inventory, keeping track of orders and client records

Optician Skills

While an Optician requires medical and technical skills to excel in this career choice, that is only half of the equation. This individual works with people all day long - clients, staff and Optometrists and Ophthalmologists. They need to have good communication skills to provide excellent customer service so that clients come back to fill future prescriptions and stay loyal to the office or store. Optometrists who work in large department stores may be required to work evening and weekend shifts, often having to stand for long periods of time.

Other key Optician skills include:

  • Ability to multi-task

  • Being patient

  • Having good manual dexterity

  • Good listening skills

  • Good writing skills

How Do You Become an Optician

Education and Training

The minimum education required for an Optician is a high school diploma or equivalent. However, securing a job is easier with an associate’s degree or a certificate from a vocational school or a community college in opticianry. These types of postsecondary education programs take one to two years to complete; one year for a certificate, and two years for an associate’s degree. The programs encompass instruction in the classroom in addition to clinical experience in the field. Classes in subjects such as math, business management, optics and eye physiology are offered in the schools or remotely. Clinical work focuses on designing, making and fitting glasses and lenses.

Twenty-three out of the 50 states in the U.S. require Opticians to obtain a license through a program or an apprenticeship, which takes about two years.

Additionally, some states have some or all of the following requirements: a passing score on a written state exam, a state practical exam, and/or on a certification exam. Licenses typically expire every one to three years, and must be renewed through continued education.

Many employers offer on-the-job training for Opticians, which focuses on technical skills, as well as administrative and managerial training.

Finding a job

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a 24 percent increase in demand for Opticians in the next eight years, with about 3,790 job openings around the country. An aging population that will need eye care services drives this need for Opticians.

An Optician resume must highlight educational experience as well as clinical training and applicable licenses or certificates. To find inspiration for writing your resume, click here.

When searching for Optician jobs, consider the requirements, pay and job responsibilities that would be the best fit.

JobHero’s cover letter examples will help you craft a cover letter that explains your qualifications and interest in a position as an Optician, while highlighting your skills and experience.

Insights from an Optician

Kari St. Louis, an Optician from Readers.com helps aspiring Opticians understand what is required to excel in this career.

What is the common career path for an Optician?

In my experience, the most common career path for opticians is to become optical managers for a private practice or store managers in retail. Other choices are to become technicians/COA's, frame/lens representatives, or even eye doctors.

What should someone consider before becoming an Optician?

Really make sure you understand what the job entails and the growth paths available to you. If you want it to truly be your career, you will need to work hard to constantly educate yourself. Although there are certifications available and associations that try to make it easier for you, growing and learning within this field can be difficult if you don't have your own personal drive pushing you forward.. Pay as an optician is also on the lower end of other careers in the optical field. The average salary for an optician in 2014 was $34,000.

What type of person excels in this job?

An extrovert is going to excel as an optician. You can't be afraid to talk to people you don't know or get to know their stories. You have to find joy in helping others. Even though there is a lot of medical and technological knowledge needed to be exceptional at the job, being an optician is first and foremost patient/customer care.

What are some of the most important skills for an Optician to have?

Empathy is the number one skill opticians need. If you can't remove yourself from a situation and understand where your patient/customer is coming from, you will not be very successful. This really comes into play if a customer is having troubles with their glasses and the problem isn't immediately evident. Listening skills have got to be strong. Being able to hear the needs and wants of the person you are assisting and knowing how to customize their glasses to them, is hard to teach. If you treat the job as a glorified salesman, the patient/customer will figure it out and not come back. That extra add on will cost you their loyalty. Being flexible would also be high on the list. Technology is always changing and that has a huge effect on what we can offer our patients/customers to aid in their visual needs. Being a progressive thinker will take you far because you will not get left behind in this ever-changing field.

What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of being an Optician?

My favorite part would be when I help a patient/customer see better than they have in years or in some cases, ever. It is so rewarding to know that my effort impacted someone's life for the better. My second favorite part would be when I know that the patient/customer has just fallen in love with a pair of glasses. Your eyewear can be your best accessory.

How Much Do Opticians Get Paid?

Although the salary for Opticians varies, these professionals make an average of $16.75 per hour; with the highest-paid Opticians earning $26.70, and the lowest-paid $10.57 per hour.

Top 10 States for an Optician Salary

Interpreters in the following states make the highest median hourly wage in the U.S.

    New Jersey

    $25.87

    Massachusetts

    $22.41

    Washington

    $22.41

    New York

    $22.21

    Rhode Island

    $21.60

    Alaska

    $20.98

    Virginia

    $19.70

    Vermont

    $19.60

    California

    $18.94

    District of Columbia

    $18.90

    Optician Resources

    To find more information about a career as an Optician, check these additional resources.

    Industry Groups

    Opticians Association of America
    National organization representing opticinary's business, professional, educational, legislative and regulatory interests.

    The Vision Council
    Promotes growth in the vision care industry through education, advocacy, research, consumer outreach, strategic relationship building and industry forums.

    Twitter

    @opticianonline
    Leading weekly magazine for optometrists, dispensing opticians and the optical industry.

    @Optician_Jobs
    Online jobs board for Opticians.

    Books

    The Optician Training Manual: Simple Steps to Becoming a Great Optician
    Helps to achieve excellence and exceed expectations in fitting, dispensing, and customer-centered service

    National Opticianry Competency Exam Secrets Study Guide
    Step-by-step National Opticianry Competency Exam study guide.

    The information in this article comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job postings and other online sources.