Opticians, Dispensing

Summary

opticians dispensing image
Opticians help customers choose eyeglass frames and lens treatments.
Quick Facts: Dispensing Opticians
2015 Median Pay $34,840 per year
$16.75 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Long-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2014 75,200
Job Outlook, 2014-24 24% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 17,800

What Dispensing Opticians 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.

Work Environment

About half of opticians worked in offices of optometrists or offices of physicians in 2014. Other opticians worked in stores that sell eyeglasses, contact lenses, visual aids, and other optical goods. These stores may be stand-alone businesses or parts of larger retail establishments, such as department stores.

How to Become a Dispensing Optician

Opticians typically have a high school diploma or equivalent and 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.

Pay

The median annual wage for dispensing opticians was $34,840 in May 2015.

Job Outlook

Employment of opticians is projected to grow 24 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. An aging population and increasing rates of chronic disease are expected to lead to greater demand for corrective eyewear.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for dispensing opticians.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of dispensing opticians with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about dispensing opticians by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Dispensing Opticians Do About this section

Opticians, dispensing
Opticians advise customers on styles of eyewear that suit their needs.

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.

Work Environment About this section

Opticians, dispensing
Opticians may work in retail stores that sell eyeglasses and other optical goods.

Dispensing opticians held about 75,200 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most dispensing opticians were as follows:

Offices of optometrists 38%
Health and personal care stores 31
Offices of physicians 10
Department stores 3

About half of opticians worked in offices of optometrists or offices of physicians in 2014. Other opticians worked in stores that sell eyeglasses, contact lenses, visual aids, and other optical goods. These stores may be stand-alone businesses or parts of larger retail establishments, such as department stores.

Opticians who work as part of a group optometry or medical practice work with optometrists and ophthalmologists to provide eye-related medical care to patients. For more information on ophthalmologists, see the profile on physicians and surgeons.

Work Schedules

Opticians who work in large retail establishments, such as department stores, may have to work evenings and weekends. Most opticians work full time, although part-time opportunities also are available.

How to Become a Dispensing Optician About this section

opticians dispensing image
Opticians learn to adjust eyeglass frames during training.

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.

Pay About this section

Dispensing Opticians

Median annual wages, May 2015

Health technologists and technicians

$42,190

Total, all occupations

$36,200

Opticians, dispensing

$34,840

 

The median annual wage for dispensing opticians was $34,840 in May 2015. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $21,980, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $55,530.

In May 2015, the median annual wages for dispensing opticians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Offices of physicians $39,380
Health and personal care stores 36,320
Offices of optometrists 33,230
Department stores 29,350

Opticians employed in retail settings may be required to work evenings and weekends. Most opticians work full time, although part-time opportunities also are available.

Job Outlook About this section

Dispensing Opticians

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Opticians, dispensing

24%

Health technologists and technicians

16%

Total, all occupations

7%

 

Employment of opticians is projected to grow 24 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.

The growth in the older population is anticipated to lead to greater demand for eye care services. Because people usually have eye problems more frequently as they age, the need for opticians is likely to grow with the increase in the number of older people.

Increasing rates of chronic diseases such as diabetes may also increase demand for opticianry services because some chronic diseases cause vision problems. Additional opticians will be needed to fill prescriptions for corrective eyewear for individuals with conditions that damage their eyesight.

A growing proportion of opticians are expected to find employment in group medical practices. Optometrists and ophthalmologists are increasingly offering glasses and contact lenses to their patients as a way to expand their businesses, leading to a greater need for opticians in those settings.

However, employment growth is expected to be constrained by increases in productivity that will allow a given number of opticians to serve more customers.

Job Prospects

Having an associate’s degree from an accredited program and ABO and NCLE certifications may improve an applicant’s job prospects.

Employment projections data for dispensing opticians, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Opticians, dispensing

29-2081 75,200 93,000 24 17,800 [XLSX]

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of dispensing opticians.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2015 MEDIAN PAY Help
Dental laboratory technicians

Dental and Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians and Medical Appliance Technicians

Dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians construct, fit, or repair appliances and devices, including dentures, eyeglasses, and prosthetics.

High school diploma or equivalent $33,950
Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers

Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers design, manufacture, and sell jewelry. They also adjust, repair, and appraise gems and jewelry.

High school diploma or equivalent $37,060
Optometrists

Optometrists

Optometrists examine the eyes and other parts of the visual system. They also diagnose and treat visual problems and manage diseases, injuries, and other disorders of the eyes. They prescribe eyeglasses or contact lenses as needed.

Doctoral or professional degree $103,900
Orthotists and prosthetists

Orthotists and Prosthetists

Orthotists and prosthetists design and fabricate medical supportive devices and measure and fit patients for them. These devices include artificial limbs (arms, hands, legs, and feet), braces, and other medical or surgical devices.

Master's degree $64,430
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Opticians, Dispensing,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/opticians-dispensing.htm (visited September 30, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015

What They Do

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Pay

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State & Area Data

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Similar Occupations

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Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2014

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2014, which is the base year of the 2014-24 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2014-24

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.