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Working as an Optician

If you go to the optician's office, you might think that everyone you encounter is an eye doctor - the person who checks you out, the person who interprets your eye exam, and the person who helps you find the best glasses for you. While it is true that some of the activities during your optical check-up are done by an eye doctor, a different professional handles the technical side of finding the best glasses for you. That person is none other than the optician!

The optician designs and releases eyesight corrective items, such as eyeglasses or contact lenses to clients. They assemble these eyeglasses, based on the prescription of the eye doctor and the aesthetic choices of the client. Opticians should be conscientious in their work. They need to be accurate because their work directly affects their clients.

Does that sound exciting? If you do not want to become a doctor but you're looking for a career in the healthcare sector, particularly in eye care, this might be a good choice!

What Does an Optician Do

Dispensing opticians help fit eyeglasses and contact lenses, following prescriptions from ophthalmologists and optometrists. They also help customers decide which eyeglass frames or contact lenses to buy.

Duties

Opticians typically do the following:

  • Receive customers’ prescriptions for eyeglasses or contact lenses
  • Measure customers’ eyes and faces, such as the distance between their pupils
  • Help customers choose eyeglass frames and lens treatments, such as eyewear for occupational use or sports, tints or anti-reflective coatings, based on their vision needs and style preferences
  • Create work orders for ophthalmic laboratory technicians, providing information about the lenses needed
  • Adjust eyewear to ensure a good fit
  • Repair or replace broken eyeglass frames
  • Educate customers about eyewear—for example, show them how to care for their contact lenses
  • Perform business tasks, such as maintaining sales records, keeping track of customers’ prescriptions, and ordering and maintaining inventory

Opticians who work in small shops or prepare custom orders may cut lenses and insert them into frames—tasks usually performed by ophthalmic laboratory technicians. For more information, see the profile on dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians.

How To Become an Optician

Opticians typically have a high school diploma or equivalent and receive some form of on-the-job training. Some opticians enter the occupation with an associate’s degree or a certificate from a community college or technical school. About half of the states require opticians to be licensed.

Education and Training

Opticians typically have a high school diploma or equivalent and learn job skills through on-the-job training. Training includes technical instruction in which, for example, a new optician measures a customer’s eyes or adjusts frames under the supervision of an experienced optician. Trainees also learn sales and office management practices. Some opticians complete an apprenticeship, which typically takes at least 2 years.

Other opticians complete a postsecondary education program at a community college or technical school. These programs award a 2-year associate’s degree or a 1-year certificate. As of 2015, the Commission on Opticianry Accreditation accredited 22 programs in 14 states.

Education programs typically include both classroom instruction and clinical experience. Coursework includes classes in optics, eye physiology, math, and business management, among other topics. Students also do supervised clinical work that gives them hands-on experience working as opticians and learning optical math, optical physics, and the use of precision measuring instruments. Some programs have distance-learning options.

The National Academy of Opticianry offers the Ophthalmic Career Progression Program (OCPP), a program designed for individuals who are already working in the field. The OCPP offers opticians another way to prepare for licensure exams or certifications.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

About half of the states require opticians to be licensed. Licensure usually requires completing formal education through an approved program or completing an apprenticeship. In addition, opticians must pass one or more exams to be licensed. The opticianry licensing board in each state can supply information on licensing requirements.

Opticians may choose to become certified in eyeglass dispensing or contact lens dispensing or both. Certification requires passing exams from the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) and National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE). Nearly all state licensing boards use the ABO and NCLE exams as the basis for state licensing. Some states also require opticians to pass state-specific practical exams.

In most states that require licensure, opticians must renew their license every 1 to 3 years and must complete continuing education requirements.

Important Qualities

Business skills. Opticians are often responsible for the business aspects of running an optical store. They should be comfortable making decisions and have some knowledge of sales and inventory management.

Communication skills. Opticians must be able to listen closely to what customers want. They must be able to clearly explain options and instructions for care in ways that customers understand.

Customer service skills. Because some opticians work in stores, they must answer questions and know about the products they sell. They interact with customers on a very personal level, fitting eyeglasses or contact lenses. To succeed, they must be friendly, courteous, patient, and helpful to customers.

Decisionmaking skills. Opticians must determine what adjustments need to be made to eyeglasses and contact lenses. They must decide which materials and styles are most appropriate for each customer on the basis of their preferences and lifestyle.

Dexterity. Opticians frequently use special tools to make final adjustments and repairs to eyeglasses. They must have good hand-eye coordination to do that work quickly and accurately.

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Average Salary$36,209
Job Growth Rate7%

Optician Career Paths

Top Careers Before Optician

Cashier
13.7 %

Top Careers After Optician

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Average Salary for an Optician

Opticians in America make an average salary of $36,209 per year or $17 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $50,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $25,000 per year.
Average Salary
$36,209

Best Paying Cities

City
Average Salary
Modesto, CA
Salary Range31k - 51k$40k$39,891
Portland, OR
Salary Range31k - 48k$40k$39,514
Minneapolis, MN
Salary Range30k - 46k$38k$37,724
Appleton, WI
Salary Range30k - 46k$38k$37,647
Philadelphia, PA
Salary Range29k - 47k$37k$37,389
Austin, TX
Salary Range28k - 48k$37k$37,276
$24k
$51k

Recently Added Salaries

Job TitleCompanyCompanyStart DateSalary
Optician, Park Meadows (NEW Store Opening Spring 2021)
Optician, Park Meadows (NEW Store Opening Spring 2021)
Warby Parker
Warby Parker
01/29/2021
01/29/2021
$33,39201/29/2021
$33,392
Optician FTE Owatonna
Optician FTE Owatonna
Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic
12/20/2020
12/20/2020
$35,31212/20/2020
$35,312
Optician
Optician
Cherokee Nation
Cherokee Nation
12/17/2020
12/17/2020
$24,94012/17/2020
$24,940
Optician I
Optician I
University of Iowa
University of Iowa
11/25/2020
11/25/2020
$36,02611/25/2020
$36,026
Optician
Optician
Cherokee Nation
Cherokee Nation
10/23/2020
10/23/2020
$24,94010/23/2020
$24,940
See More Recent Salaries

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Optician Resumes

Designing and figuring out what to include on your resume can be tough, not to mention time-consuming. That's why we put together a guide that is designed to help you craft the perfect resume for becoming an Optician. If you're needing extra inspiration, take a look through our selection of templates that are specific to your job.

Learn How To Write an Optician Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless Optician resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

View Detailed Information

Optician Demographics

Gender

female

74.3 %

male

22.3 %

unknown

3.5 %

Ethnicity

White

70.6 %

Hispanic or Latino

14.9 %

Black or African American

5.5 %

Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

71.3 %

Russian

3.4 %

French

3.2 %
See More Demographics

Optician Education

Degrees

High School Diploma

32.4 %

Bachelors

25.1 %

Associate

23.0 %

Top Colleges for Opticians

1. University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

Minneapolis, MN • Public

In-State Tuition
$14,760
Enrollment
31,451

2. Stanford University

Stanford, CA • Private

In-State Tuition
$51,354
Enrollment
7,083

3. Duke University

Durham, NC • Private

In-State Tuition
$55,695
Enrollment
6,596

4. University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA • Private

In-State Tuition
$55,584
Enrollment
10,764

5. Georgetown University

Washington, DC • Private

In-State Tuition
$54,104
Enrollment
7,089

6. Northwestern University

Evanston, IL • Private

In-State Tuition
$54,568
Enrollment
8,451

7. Maine Maritime Academy

Castine, ME • Public

In-State Tuition
$13,478
Enrollment
979

8. University of Southern California

Los Angeles, CA • Private

In-State Tuition
$56,225
Enrollment
19,548

9. California State University - Bakersfield

Bakersfield, CA • Public

In-State Tuition
$7,309
Enrollment
9,142

10. Emory University

Atlanta, GA • Private

In-State Tuition
$51,306
Enrollment
6,975
See More Education Info
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Internship
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Top Skills For an Optician

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 37.3% of opticians listed customer service on their resume, but soft skills such as business skills and communication skills are important as well.

  • Customer Service, 37.3%
  • Patient Care, 10.7%
  • Insurance Companies, 8.8%
  • Eye Exams, 4.8%
  • Visual Acuity, 4.4%
  • Other Skills, 34.0%
  • See All Optician Skills

Best States For an Optician

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as an optician. The best states for people in this position are Alaska, Maine, Washington, and Oregon. Opticians make the most in Alaska with an average salary of $43,459. Whereas in Maine and Washington, they would average $40,184 and $39,773, respectively. While opticians would only make an average of $39,493 in Oregon, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. Wisconsin

Total Optician Jobs:
93
Highest 10% Earn:
$55,000
Location Quotient:
2.55
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. Washington

Total Optician Jobs:
87
Highest 10% Earn:
$58,000
Location Quotient:
1.56
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Arizona

Total Optician Jobs:
40
Highest 10% Earn:
$60,000
Location Quotient:
1.11
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
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What do you like the most about working as Optician?

You get to meet new people every day and help them see. Finding the best frame for them, depending on their prescription and their style. Show More

What do you NOT like?

You will find some people that are not easy to please when it comes to glasses and make you job harder than it has to be. Show More

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Top Optician Employers

1. Walmart
4.9
Avg. Salary: 
$41,050
Opticians Hired: 
1,722+
2. America's Best Contacts & Eyeglasses
4.1
Avg. Salary: 
$33,763
Opticians Hired: 
371+
3. Eyemart Express
4.2
Avg. Salary: 
$36,499
Opticians Hired: 
302+
4. Sam's Club
4.1
Avg. Salary: 
$42,303
Opticians Hired: 
282+
5. Sears Holdings
3.8
Avg. Salary: 
$39,703
Opticians Hired: 
184+
6. Shopko
4.6
Avg. Salary: 
$34,154
Opticians Hired: 
177+

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