An optician is an eye care professional that helps to select and dispense eyewear. While they do not write prescriptions or diagnose eye conditions, the optician is integral to the process of obtaining glasses or contact lenses. People seeking employment as an optician will find that it is a stable field and that because of the ongoing need for corrective eyewear, there are many job opportunities available. When considering this as a career path, it is important to understand what is required in terms of education, training and licensing. One should also understand what the job entails and what other types of jobs can be obtained following completion of an optician training program.
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There are several ways that a person can gain employment as an optician. In some cases, a person without any special training may gain employment and receive on-the-job training, provided that they have a high school diploma. This option is becoming less desirable however, and more employers are requiring incoming opticians to have completed some form of optician training program. These may be Associate’s degree programs at a two year college or certificate programs. In some states, these programs are accredited by the Commission of Opticianry Accreditation. Courses typically include anatomy and physiology of the eye, algebra, optical physics, basic optics, optical terminology and ophthalmic and office procedures. Other courses may include ophthalmic lens finishing and ophthalmic and contact lens dispensing.
Licensing, Certification and Employment as an Optician
After completing an opticianry program, a person may be required to obtain a license depending on the state where they plan to work. Certification is also desirable for many employers. This includes certification from the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) and the National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE). The ABO certification is meant for opticians who dispense eye glasses and the NCLE is meant for people who dispense contact lenses. As opticians work with both glasses and contact lenses, it is advantageous to hold both types of certification. In addition to making opticians more appealing to employers, certification can also translate into higher wages and opportunities for promotion.
Opticians typically find work in optometry or ophthalmology offices that also sell eye wear. Some optical shops may be found in malls or other retail outlets. Often big box retailers will sell corrective eye wear and employ opticians for dispensing. In some cases an optician may become self-employed and open his or her own optical business to sell frames.
The Type of Work and What to Expect
The primary work performed by opticians involves contact lenses and eyeglasses. It is the optician’s job to review the client’s prescription and use it as a guide to ensure that the client gets the best eye wear as possible. Opticians do this by first talking with the client about his or her work and recreational habits. In addition they must be able to help the patient choose the best frames based off the prescription type and the person’s face shape. They will also suggest the best lens material and coating to fit the client’s lifestyle. Once the glasses are ready, the optician verifies that the prescription is accurate and makes necessary adjustments so that they are situated properly on the patient’s face. In addition to the work done with glasses, opticians will also order contact lenses and train new contact lens wearers on how to properly insert and remove their lenses.
Characteristics of a Successful Optician
Before considering an optician program, a person should take into account what characteristics are necessary in order to be a successful optician. Opticians work directly with the public, as a result it is necessary to have good people skills. This means being able to interpret a person’s wants, and having the ability to communicate with them in a plain and clear manner. An optician must also have a pleasant demeanor that inspires trust when selecting eye wear or assisting in the insertion and removal of contact lenses. They must also be patient, particularly when dealing with difficult clients. When working with glasses they must have good manual dexterity and the ability to pay close attention to detail.
Upon completion of an optician program, there are several career paths that can be taken other than working as an optician. One path is to seek employment as an optical assistant. When working in an optometrist office, an person who has successfully completed an optician program will have the basic knowledge needed to assist an optometrist in the back office. This typically includes checking the patient’s vision and performing certain non-medical tasks as instructed by the doctor. Opticians may also seek employment as sales representatives for eyeglass wholesalers and manufacturers. Other potential career paths for opticians includes management positions or teaching optometry.
What Does an Optician Do?
An optician is someone who helps fills out the eyeglasses or contact lens prescription for patients. Once a person has seen an optometrist or ophthalmologist, they are then most likely to visit an optician to get their glasses or contacts fitted. Opticians may also take measurements with tools and discuss possible eyewear options with customers. They may call the eye doctor who gave the prescription for verification purposes. They will then help the client to find the right frames, lenses or contacts that fit their needs. They must inform the patients on how to properly wear and care for their glasses and contacts and address any issues or problems a customer may have. They may repair, fix or adjust glasses for eye glass wearers as well. Preparing eyewear, taking inventory, record keeping and helping customers are all part of an optician’s day-to-day routine.
Opticians can find work in clinics, hospitals and optical stores. Awareness in proper eye care is increasing, so the need for opticians is growing. These people must be helpful and kind to customers so that they leave comfortable with their choice of glasses or contacts.
It is important to note that an optician does not prescribe glasses or contacts; they take the prescription given to the customer and help them to choose the right frames or contacts that fit their needs. There are lab technicians that create the lens for the frames, but some opticians have the training to grind and place the lenses in the frames themselves. Opticians are not allowed to make diagnoses about medical conditions or suggest treatment options. If a customer asks about any medical conditions, then the optician should refer them back to their main eye care professional.
Anyone interested in becoming an optician must have at least a high school diploma. There are a few options when it comes to gaining the education or training needed to work in this field. There are apprenticeships and on the job training programs available for people who have their high school diploma. Those that would like to go to college should look for certificate programs or Associate’s degrees related to working as an optician. These options can last anywhere from one to four years and are necessary for entry level positions.
Some states are now requiring licensing before any optician can work. The American Board of Opticianry (ABO) and the National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE) are organizations that opticians need to contact for more information on how to seek certification and licensing. Many employers do not hire opticians unless they have their certification, especially those that hire sales representatives or managers. Licenses must be renewed each year through continuing education courses.
Salary & Wages
Starting opticians can expect to make around $15 an hour or around $30,000 a year. Salary depends on a person’s education, experience, licensing, employer and location. Someone with years of experience and in a managerial position can make around $45,000 a year.
The future for opticians is expected to increase. Laser eye surgery may be on the rise, but not everybody wants to participate in this type of surgery. Glasses and contacts are options that people are comfortable with. It is a known fact that after the age of 40, the eyes weaken and corrective eyewear is necessary in order to see, read and drive properly. That is why it is necessary for people interested in working as opticians to have the proper training and licensing in order to help the millions of people in the United States that wear corrective lenses.