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