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Summary

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Video transcript available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lP3pmq9p814.
Quick Facts: Opticians
2023 Median Pay $44,170 per year
$21.23 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, 2022 73,300
Job Outlook, 2022-32 3% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2022-32 2,000

What Opticians Do

Opticians fit customers for eyeglasses and contact lenses and help them select which frames and lenses to buy.

Work Environment

Opticians work in a variety of settings. Some work in offices of optometrists or ophthalmologists. Others work in stores that sell eyeglasses, contact lenses, visual aids, and other optical goods.

How to Become an Optician

Opticians typically need a high school diploma or the equivalent and receive on-the-job training. Some opticians enter the occupation with an associate’s degree or a certificate in ophthalmic dispensing or a related field. Some states require opticians to be licensed.

Pay

The median annual wage for opticians was $44,170 in May 2023.

Job Outlook

Employment of opticians is projected to grow 3 percent from 2022 to 2032, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 6,400 openings for opticians are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

State & Area Data

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

Similar Occupations

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

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

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

What Opticians Do About this section

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

Opticians fit customers for eyeglasses and contact lenses and help them select which frames and 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 that best fit their vision needs and lifestyle
  • Create work orders for the optical laboratory
  • Adjust, repair, and replace eyewear
  • Assist customers with inserting and removing contact lenses
  • Educate customers about caring for eyewear

Opticians review prescriptions that customers receive from optometrists and ophthalmologists. These prescriptions have information about the eyeglasses and contact lenses customers need. Opticians also help customers select eyewear based on the customer’s prescription, lifestyle, and other factors.

The optician measures the customer’s face and head using a variety of computerized or manual tools, such as a pupillary distance ruler, to ensure the eyewear will fit properly. After finalizing a customer’s selections, the optician creates a work order for an ophthalmic laboratory technician. Work orders provide specifications on how lenses need to be cut and fabricated. Some opticians cut lenses and insert the lenses into frames themselves.

Opticians also assist customers with details related to the finished product, such as adjusting eyeglasses for precise fit and ensuring proper insertion or removal of contact lenses. Other duties may include setting up, organizing, and cleaning product displays.

In addition, opticians often have administrative tasks, such as maintaining sales records, interpreting customers’ prescriptions, preparing invoices, and ordering and maintaining inventory. 

Work Environment About this section

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

Opticians held about 73,300 jobs in 2022. The largest employers of opticians were as follows:

Offices of optometrists 43%
Health and personal care retailers 23
General merchandise retailers 19
Offices of physicians 11

Many opticians work in office settings, such as those of optometrists and ophthalmologists. Others work in retail stores that sell eyeglasses, contact lenses, visual aids, and related optical goods. These retail stores may be independent businesses or parts of larger retail establishments, such as department stores.

Work Schedules

Most opticians work full time, but part-time work is common. They may work evenings and weekends.

How to Become an Optician About this section

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

Opticians typically need a high school diploma or the equivalent and receive on-the-job training. Some states require opticians to be licensed, which may include completing an associate’s degree or a certificate in ophthalmic dispensing or a related field.

Education and Training

Opticians typically need at least a high school diploma to enter the occupation. High school students interested in becoming an optician should take classes in math and sciences.

Some 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. A list of accredited programs is available from the Commission on Opticianry Accreditation.

Education programs typically include both classroom instruction and clinical experience. Coursework includes topics such as optics, eye physiology, and lens dispensing. Clinical work, which is supervised by an optician, provides students with hands-on experience assisting customers.

Opticians who do not complete a postsecondary education program may enter the occupation through an apprenticeship or on-the-job training. Under the supervision of an experienced optician, apprentices and trainees learn skills such as measuring the distance between a customer’s pupils and adjusting frames.

The National Academy of Opticianry offers the Ophthalmic Career Progression Program (OCPP), a program designed for workers who are already employed in the optical field. Participants complete a series of tests that prepare them for certifications or state licensure exams.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Some states require opticians to be licensed. In addition to passing one or more exams, licensure usually requires completing an approved educational program or completing an apprenticeship or other supervised work experience. For more information, contact the opticianry licensing board in your state.

Employers may require or prefer to hire candidates who have certification in eyeglass dispensing and contact lens dispensing offered by the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) and National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE). Both specialties require passing a separate examination. Many state licensing boards require a passing score on the ABO and NCLE exams for licensure. Other states require opticians to pass state-specific examinations.

Maintaining ABO-NCLE certification requires completing a specified number of continuing education credits. Some states require continuing education to maintain licensure.

Important Qualities

Business skills. Opticians may be responsible for operating an optical store. They should have some knowledge of sales and inventory management.

Communication skills. Opticians must be able to clearly explain options for frames and lenses. They also need to provide instruction about caring for eyewear in ways that customers understand.

Customer-service skills. Opticians must be knowledgeable about the products they sell. When interacting with customers, they should be friendly, patient, and helpful.

Decision-making skills. Opticians must decide which materials and designs are most appropriate for each customer’s preferences and lifestyle. They also determine what adjustments, if any, need to be made to eyeglasses and lenses.

Detail oriented. Opticians must be precise when taking customers’ measurements and recording lens type, product number, and other information for work orders. They also must maintain customer files in an orderly manner.

Dexterity. Opticians frequently use special tools, such as pliers and pupilometers, to adjust and repair eyeglasses. They must have good hand-eye coordination to work accurately.

Pay About this section

Opticians

Median annual wages, May 2023

Health technologists and technicians

$51,250

Total, all occupations

$48,060

Opticians, dispensing

$44,170

 

The median annual wage for opticians was $44,170 in May 2023. 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 $31,560, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $69,900.

In May 2023, the median annual wages for opticians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

General merchandise retailers $47,230
Offices of physicians 46,040
Health and personal care retailers 45,930
Offices of optometrists 39,280

Most opticians work full time, but part-time work is common. They may work evenings and weekends.

Job Outlook About this section

Opticians

Percent change in employment, projected 2022-32

Health technologists and technicians

7%

Opticians, dispensing

3%

Total, all occupations

3%

 

Employment of opticians is projected to grow 3 percent from 2022 to 2032, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 6,400 openings for opticians are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Greater demand for eye-care services is expected because of growth in the number of older people, who usually have more eye problems than younger people.

Increasing rates of chronic diseases also may increase demand for opticianry services because some diseases, such as diabetes, cause vision problems. In addition, opticians will be needed to fill prescriptions for corrective eyewear for people who have eye refraction problems such as myopia and astigmatism.

However, growing consumer interest in purchasing eyewear online may temper employment demand somewhat.

Employment projections data for opticians, 2022-32
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2022 Projected Employment, 2032 Change, 2022-32 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Opticians, dispensing

29-2081 73,300 75,200 3 2,000 Get data

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) 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 OEWS 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.org. 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.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop 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 opticians.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help on Entry-Level Education 2023 MEDIAN PAY Help on Median Pay
Audiologists Audiologists

Audiologists diagnose, manage, and treat patients who have hearing, balance, or related problems.

Doctoral or professional degree $87,740
Dental laboratory technicians Dental and Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians and Medical Appliance Technicians

Dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians make or repair dentures, eyeglasses, prosthetics, and related products.

High school diploma or equivalent $44,640
Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers design, construct, adjust, repair, appraise and sell jewelry.

High school diploma or equivalent $47,450
Optometrists Optometrists

Optometrists diagnose, manage, and treat conditions and diseases of the human eye and visual system, including examining eyes and prescribing corrective lenses.

Doctoral or professional degree $131,860
Orthotists and prosthetists Orthotists and Prosthetists

Orthotists and prosthetists measure, design, fit, and adapt medical devices, such as supportive braces and artificial limbs, for patients who have disabling conditions.

Master's degree $78,100
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Opticians,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/opticians-dispensing.htm (visited June 10, 2024).

Last Modified Date: Wednesday, April 17, 2024

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. For most profiles, this tab has a table with wages in the major industries employing the occupation. It does not include pay for self-employed workers, agriculture workers, or workers in private households because these data are not collected by the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) survey, the source of BLS wage data in the OOH.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's CareerOneStop.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

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).

2023 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 and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2023, the median annual wage for all workers was $48,060.

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, 2022

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2022, which is the base year of the 2022-32 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2022-32

The projected percent change in employment from 2022 to 2032. The average growth rate for all occupations is 3 percent.

Employment Change, 2022-32

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

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 2022-32

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2022 to 2032.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

2023 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 and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2023, the median annual wage for all workers was $48,060.