What Is an Optician?

You've come to the right place if you're curious about opticians. Let's explore the intriguing world of opticians and learn how to embark on a rewarding career in this field.

Unraveling the Role of an Optician

An optician is a skilled eye professional specializing in fitting eyewear, encompassing frames and contact lenses tailored to correct various vision issues. These professionals are fully equipped to collaborate with customers in their quest for the perfect eyewear, all by a meticulous prescription provided by an eye doctor.

The Path to Becoming an Optician

If the thought of becoming an optician has crossed your mind, there are a few avenues you can explore to make this dream a reality. You can choose from the following options:

1. Optician Certificate

Obtaining an optician certificate is a quick and efficient way to kickstart your career in the field. This route typically takes around a year to complete. Numerous certification programs are offered through community colleges, vocational institutes, technical schools, and even online platforms. These programs will provide comprehensive training in the fundamental skills required for an entry-level optician. This includes ocular pathology, ophthalmic materials, contact lens fitting, and more. Moreover, you'll receive hands-on experience through clinical instruction, preparing you for certification exams or state licensure if you choose to pursue them.

2. Associate Degree in Ophthalmic Dispensing

For a more in-depth educational experience, you can opt for an associate degree in ophthalmic dispensing. This path closely mirrors the curriculum of a certificate program but extends over two years, offering a more thorough understanding of the field. Some programs also provide internships for on-the-job training and offer flexible distance learning options. To ensure the quality of your education, it's advisable to select a program accredited by the Commission on Opticianry Accreditation.

3. Apprenticeship

An apprenticeship is a hands-on training approach that lets you learn while working in a vision center or medical practice under the supervision of an experienced optometrist or ophthalmologist. Typically, you'll need to accumulate a set number of hours to complete the apprenticeship, which can take at least two years. One of the appealing aspects of this option is that you'll receive compensation for your work while gaining valuable experience. Moreover, you can find apprenticeship opportunities listed on national job boards, potentially leading to a permanent position in the same location.

Day in the Life of an Optician

As an optician, your role primarily revolves around customer service and the precise design, fitting, and adjustment of eyeglasses, contacts, and prescription sunglasses. You're the guiding hand that helps individuals find eyewear that perfectly matches their prescription, ensuring they leave with a product tailored to their unique needs. Additionally, you'll utilize precision measuring instruments to ensure eyewear fits customers perfectly and may also handle repairs and educate customers on eyewear maintenance. Opticians are commonly found in eye care centers or stores, although some collaborate with optometrists in medical settings and optometrist offices. Administrative duties are also part of the package, which includes tasks such as appointment management, record-keeping, inventory maintenance, insurance processing, and the sale of eyewear accessories.

Optician vs. Optometrist vs. Ophthalmologist

Opticians, optometrists, and ophthalmologists all play pivotal roles in improving people's eyesight, yet their responsibilities vary significantly. These professionals complement one another in the realm of eye care.

  • Optometrists conduct vision tests, and eye exams and provide prescriptions for corrective lenses or medications. They are responsible for identifying any eye abnormalities.
  • Opticians work closely with optometrists to craft suitable eyewear based on their prescriptions.
  • Ophthalmologists are medical doctors with expertise in vision care, capable of performing surgical operations. Unlike opticians and optometrists, they hold a medical degree.

Qualifying as an Optician

Becoming an Optician is a structured process with specific requirements. In most cases, you'll need a high school diploma as a minimum educational qualification. You may also be required to obtain a license to practice as an optician, although the prerequisites can vary depending on your state. Some states mandate written or practical exams, while others grant a license upon completing an official certification program. It's crucial to research your local regulations to determine whether licensure is mandatory.

Optician Certification and Licensure

Upon completing your chosen educational path, you may need to take a licensing exam before officially entering the world of opticians. Approximately half of the states in the United States have this requirement. Additionally, you can pursue optician certification, which is offered by the American Board of Opticianry & National Contact Lens Examiners (ABO-NCLE). Certification can enhance your employability by validating your knowledge and skills as an optician. The certification process involves a series of exams and practical skill assessments with three distinct levels: basic, enhanced, and master. Remember to renew your optician certification every three years to keep it current.

Optician Jobs and Salary

After completing your training and securing the necessary certifications or licenses, you'll be well-prepared to embark on your optician career. Job opportunities can be found in vision stores, private practices, and medical facilities. Essential skills for opticians include attention to detail, strong communication abilities, skill, and empathy. Job boards offer positions at various levels, from apprenticeships to senior roles. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of opticians is expected to grow by 6 percent between 2020 and 2030, opening up new opportunities in the field.

In terms of salary, the average income for opticians is approximately $37,570 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Glassdoor reports a slightly higher figure, listing the average salary as $37,749 as of May 2022. The income can rise significantly for those in management roles, with some earning up to $65,810. The field of opticianry offers a positive work-life balance and promising career prospects, with many job listings in the United States.


Is becoming an optician a good career choice?

Becoming an optician is an excellent career choice, especially if you have an interest in eye care and a desire to help others. The job prospects are promising, and it offers a stable income.

What skills are essential for an optician?

Opticians need to possess strong communication skills, attention to detail, and the ability to work with precision instruments. Empathy and a customer-centric approach are also valuable traits.

Can I specialize in a particular type of eyewear?

Yes, opticians can specialize in various types of eyewear, such as prescription glasses, contact lenses, or even sunglasses. Specialization can help you cater to specific customer needs.

How long does it take to become a licensed optician?

The timeline for becoming a licensed optician varies depending on your location and the specific requirements. On average, it may take 2-4 years to complete the necessary education, training, and licensure.

Do opticians provide eye exams?

Opticians do not conduct eye exams; that's the role of optometrists or ophthalmologists. However, they can help you choose the right eyewear based on a prescription provided by an eye care professional.

Are there opportunities for career advancement in this field?

Yes, opticians can advance their careers by becoming licensed and gaining experience. Some may choose to manage optical shops or open their own practices.


In this detailed guide, we've explored the world of opticians, understanding their role, the qualifications required, and the exciting job prospects. Becoming an optician is not only a rewarding career but also a chance to make a meaningful impact on people's lives by improving their vision. If you're considering a career in the field of opticianry, you're on the right path to a fulfilling and in-demand profession.

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