Innovators Guide

Optician Training

Many employers increasingly prefer dispensing opticians to complete certification or graduate from an accredited 2-year associate's degree program in opticianry; some large employers may provide an apprenticeship that may last two years or longer.

Education and training. Although a high school diploma is all that is required to get into this occupation, most workers have completed at least some college courses or a degree. Classes in physics, basic anatomy, algebra, and trigonometry as well as experience with computers are particularly valuable. These classes prepare dispensing opticians to learn job skills, including optical mathematics, optical physics, and the use of precision measuring instruments and other machinery and tools.

Structured apprenticeship programs are more commonly available in States where licensing is not mandatory, and these programs are usually offered by large employers. Apprentices receive technical instruction along with training in office management and sales. Under the supervision of an experienced optician, optometrist, or ophthalmologist, apprentices work directly with patients, fitting eyeglasses and contact lenses.

Formal training in the field is offered in community colleges and in a few 4-year colleges and universities. As of 2008, the Commission on Opticianry Accreditation accredited 22 associate degree programs in 13 states. Graduation from an accredited program in opticianry can be advantageous as it provides a nationally recognized credential.

Licensure. As of 2009, twenty-two States require dispensing opticians to be licensed. States may require individuals to pass one or more of the following for licensure: a State practical examination, a State written examination, and certification examinations offered by the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) and the National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE). To qualify for the examinations, States often require applicants to complete postsecondary training or work as apprentices for 2 to 4 years.

Some States allow graduates of opticianry programs to take the licensure exam immediately upon graduation; others require a few months to a year of experience. Continuing education is commonly required for licensure renewal. Information about specific licensing requirements is available from the State board of occupational licensing.

Certification and other qualifications. Any optician can apply to the ABO and the NCLE for certification of their skills. Certification signifies to customers and employers that an optician has a certain level of expertise. Certification must be renewed every 3 years through continuing education. The State of Texas offers voluntary registration for the occupation.

Dispensing opticians deal directly with the public, so they should be tactful, pleasant, and able to communicate well. Fitting contact lenses requires considerable skill, care, and patience, so manual dexterity and the ability to do precision work are essential.

Advancement. A few experienced dispensing opticians open their own optical stores. Some become managers of optical stores or sales representatives for wholesalers or manufacturers of eyeglasses or lenses.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition

Find related resources below:

Optician Employment
Optician Training
Optician Job Outlook
Optician Income


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