After receiving an eye exam from an ophthalmologist and optometrist, patients may take the doctor's prescription for glasses to an optician. Opticians recommend, help select and customize the glasses or contact lenses chosen by patients. Opticians generally work in an eye doctor’s office or a specialty eyewear shop that prepares eye glasses and contract lenses for customers.
Although there are no formal training requirements for opticians, many obtain a certificate or associate’s degree in opticianry. Some states also require a license for opticians to practice professionally. Each state’s governing board administers licensing requirements for opticians. Obtaining a license generally requires passing a state exam or credentialing exam administered by the American Board of Opticianry and the National Contact Lens Examiners.
Many opticians work full-time and accomodate customers immediately, rather than requiring them to schedule an appointment. Opticians work with customers first by reviewing their prescriptions. They then suggest frames, styles, types of lenses or contact lenses. Not only do they help customers select frames or lenses that fit their prescription needs, they also help customers make the best selections to complement their appearances.
After customers select the frames or contacts they want, opticians measure customers’ eyes to prepare the frames or lenses correctly. They assist in selecting lens treatments, such as non-reflective coatings, tints and other treatments that improve the customer’s vision. After the prescription is complete, opticians send it to a laboratory where the glasses are customized and made for the customer. After the frames and lenses are complete, the optician makes adjustments and ensures that the lenses and contacts meet the customer’s needs.
Maintaining the Eyewear Shop
Opticians also perform business tasks to ensure the optical shop is running properly. This includes maintaining and ordering inventory, creating sales reports, serving as liaison between the customer, eye doctor and optical laboratory, and fixing broken lenses and frames. The optician or an assistant also receive payments, work with health-care insurance providers, receive payment and handle warranty issues regarding the frames or contact lenses.
Career Outlook and Salary
Optician career opportunities are expected to increase 29 percent between 2010 and 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Growth is expected because of a growing older population during that time frame. . Fashion also influences eyewear, spurring the demand for updated eyewear and the services of opticians. More than 60,000 opticians were employed in the United States in 2011. Their average salary was $34,750 per year. Salaries ranged from $20,920 to $51,620 per year, including the Bureau’s 10th through 90th percentiles.
2016 Salary Information for Opticians, Dispensing
Opticians, dispensing earned a median annual salary of $35,530 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, opticians, dispensing earned a 25th percentile salary of $27,890, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $45,910, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 77,600 people were employed in the U.S. as opticians, dispensing.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Opticians, Dispensing
- American Board of Opticianry (ABO) and National Contact Lens Examiners: Basic Certification Exam
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Opticians, Dispensing Occupational Employment and Wages
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Opticians, Dispensing
- Career Trend: Opticians, Dispensing
Elvis Michael has been writing professionally since 2007, contributing technology articles to various online outlets. He is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in information technology at Northeastern University.