Optician Job Description
Opticians work on-site in eyeglasses stores, a unique environment that is part retail, part medical office. Opticians are responsible for creating eyeglasses and contact lenses using prescriptions provided by an optometrist, requiring opticians to be detail-oriented and to take precise measurements of customer faces and eyeglass lenses. Once opticians have completed on-the-job-training, they largely work on their own with little supervision. Most opticians work full-time hours in stores that are open seven days a week, though most eyeglass stores are closed during major federal holidays.
Optician Duties and Responsibilities
The main duty of an optician is to prepare eyeglasses and contact lenses for customers using prescription information given by an optometrist. Opticians may work closely with customers and insurance companies; in some work environments, they may have several administrative and clerical duties in addition to their normal responsibilities, which include:
In some workplaces, the optician is the first person to greet the customer. Opticians prescreen customers by asking questions about the vision problems they’re having and the type of corrective eyewear they are looking for.
Design Eyeglass Lenses and Frames
Opticians work with machinery to create custom frames and contact lenses for customers and to adjust existing frames and lenses to customers’ faces. An optician must take precise measurements between the corneas of the eyes and the contours of the face to design frames that fit perfectly.
Before giving glasses or contact lenses to a customer, the optician must ensure that the prescription is correct. This requires testing the fit of the glasses or the contacts with the customer’s eyes, ensuring that he or she can see well, and double-checking that the correct prescription has been applied to the lenses.
Provide Instruction to Customers
Opticians demonstrate the proper care and maintenance of contact lenses and eyeglasses to customers, providing them with instructions for the insertion and removal of contacts. This may require hands-on aid as well as verbal instruction.
Collect Insurance Information
Opticians gather insurance information from customers, verifying coverage with insurance companies to make sure the customer is being charged the right amount of money for eye examinations, eyeglasses, lenses, etc.
Optician Skills and Qualifications
Opticians help guide customers through the process of getting eyeglasses and/or contact lenses, helping them find the right eyewear for their particular needs. Opticians use these skills on a daily basis to complete their job duties:
- Customer service – opticians must answer customer questions and guide them toward the right eyewear for their needs
- Reception and administrative work – opticians may also be responsible for scheduling customer appointments, making follow-up calls to remind customers of upcoming appointments, and answering the phones
- Sales – opticians suggest eyeglass accessories, such as cases and lens cleaners, and may recommend sunglasses to customers as well
- Data entry – used to keep the in-house system up-to-date with customer information, including contact and insurance information
- Attention to detail – lenses must match precise prescriptions and specifications; as an optician, you must double- and triple-check your work before giving products to customers
Optician Tools of the Trade
Opticians work daily with various frames and contact lenses, but there is one piece of equipment they use most often to complete their daily duties:
- Focimeter – often called a lensmeter or a lensometer, a focimeter or vertometer is the machine used to verify the prescription on eyeglass lenses, to cut lenses down to size, and to properly mount lenses inside of eyeglass frames
Optician Education and Training
Opticians do not have to attend a special school or receive a degree, and in many states, they do not have to obtain a license to start working. A high school diploma or equivalent is sufficient to begin in this job, though on-the-job-training is required. Most eyeglasses stores have their own program that involves mentor-mentee training, sometimes for several weeks, before the optician begins performing the job alone. Twenty-three states require opticians to be licensed. This license may be obtained after on-the-job-training has been completed; it requires passing both a written and a practical exam.
Optician Salary and Outlook
Data from the BLS shows that opticians earn around $17.08 per hour, or about $35,530 per year median pay. In 2016, there were more than 77,000 of these jobs in the U.S., and this career field has an above-average growth rate. The optician job outlook for 2016 to 2026 is 15 percent, much higher than the national average.
In addition to salary, opticians receive other benefits and perks of the job. Most eyeglass stores offer employee discounts that extend to immediate family members as well as to the employee. Some stores also offer health insurance, paid vacation leave, and bonus incentives for selling high-dollar eyeglass frames.
Learn more about being an optician with helpful resources listed below:
Opticians Association of America – The OAA offers links to state optician societies, providing up-to-date news about the eyecare industry and containing helpful resources for individuals who want to learn more about this career
Extra Mile: 500 Customer Service Tips for Success: Tools to Attract, Satisfy, & Retain Even the Most Difficult Customer – Tycho Press provides this in-depth guide that includes 500 tips to help with every aspect of customer service from crisis management to building customer loyalty
International Opticians Association – The IOA offers worldwide networking for opticians, providing a forum to exchange information and learn about upcoming events and changes to the industry around the globe
Secrets of Closing the Sale – Author Zig Ziglar has worked with Fortune 500 companies, schools, and non-profit organizations sharing his methods for successful sales. This book provides a comprehensive guide to closing the sale no matter what, outlining the most effective strategies to get from “no” to “deal!”
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