In the 23 states that require opticians to be formally licensed, earning a license is typically a three-step process. Opticians must have classroom training, have on-the-job training and pass a licensing test. An apprentice optician is an optician-in-training who works under a licensed optician to get necessary work experience so she can qualify for full-fledged licensure.
While laws vary from state to state, most apprenticeships require the student to undergo formal training while learning on the job. In Nevada, the student must enroll in a training program within 90 days of receiving an apprentice optician's license. As another example, Florida requires completion of an orientation course within 1 year.
Apprentice opticians work under opticians to help customers select eyeglasses. This process includes both measuring the customer's face and eyes to determine fit as well as providing advice on aesthetic concerns like the style and color of lenses. The optician also fills in the order to have the laboratory actually grind and fit the lenses. Under supervision, apprentices also help fit finished eyeglasses and conduct repairs on broken frames. Some states also allow apprentice opticians to work with customers to help fit contact lenses as well. Finally, apprentices also get experience with the business side of running the operation.
The number of hours that you need to spend in apprenticeship to qualify to be able to become a full-fledged optician varies by state. In Connecticut, you need 8,000 hours of apprenticeship. Florida requires 6,240 but will count each credit hour of classroom training as 86.67 hours of apprenticeship. Nevada requires 3 years and 2,000 hours with a board-approved course or 1 year and 1,000 hours with completion of an Associate of Applied Science in Ophthalmic Dispensing program.
Outlook for Opticians
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the outlook for opticians is very positive. It predicts that the industry will add 18,100 jobs between 2010 and 2020. This translates to 29-percent growth, which is much faster than the rate at which the country's labor market is growing as a whole.
- Opticians Association of America: Becoming an Optician
- Professional Opticians of Florida: How to Become a Florida Optician through the Apprenticeship Program (Summary)
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: What Dispensing Opticians Do
- Connecticut Department of Public Health: Apprentice Permits
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Opticians, Dispensing
Steve Lander has been a writer since 1996, with experience in the fields of financial services, real estate and technology. His work has appeared in trade publications such as the "Minnesota Real Estate Journal" and "Minnesota Multi-Housing Association Advocate." Lander holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Columbia University.