Bureau of Labor Statistics

Opticians

opticians dispensing image
Opticians help customers choose eyeglass frames and lens treatments.
Quick Facts: Opticians
2019 Median Pay $37,840 per year
$18.19 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, 2019 73,800
Job Outlook, 2019-29 4% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2019-29 3,000

Summary

What Opticians Do

Opticians help fit eyeglasses and contact lenses, following prescriptions from ophthalmologists and optometrists.

Work Environment

About half of opticians work in offices of optometrists or offices of physicians. 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 an 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 opticians was $37,840 in May 2019.

Job Outlook

Employment of opticians is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as 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 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

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

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 antireflective 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.

Work Environment

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

Opticians held about 73,800 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of opticians were as follows:

Offices of optometrists 41%
Health and personal care stores 29
Offices of physicians 10
Self-employed workers 3

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.

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 an Optician

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 2017, the Commission on Opticianry Accreditation accredited 19 programs in 11 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 listen closely to what customers want. They must 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 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

Opticians

Median annual wages, May 2019

Health technologists and technicians

$44,380

Total, all occupations

$39,810

Opticians, dispensing

$37,840

 

The median annual wage for opticians was $37,840 in May 2019. 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 $25,640, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $60,840.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for opticians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Offices of physicians $42,010
Health and personal care stores 37,760
Offices of optometrists 36,370

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

Job Outlook

Opticians

Percent change in employment, projected 2019-29

Health technologists and technicians

8%

Opticians, dispensing

4%

Total, all occupations

4%

 

Employment of opticians is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as 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 also may 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.

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 American Board of Opticianry (ABO) and National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE) certifications may improve an applicant’s job prospects.

Employment projections data for opticians, 2019-29

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

Occupational Title

Opticians, dispensing

SOC Code29-2081
Employment, 201973,800
Projected Employment, 202976,800
Percent Change, 2019-294
Numeric Change, 2019-293,000
Employment by IndustryGet data

State & Area Data

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.

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

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

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2019 MEDIAN PAY
Audiologists

Audiologists

Audiologists diagnose, manage, and treat a patient’s hearing, balance, or ear problems.

Doctoral or professional degree $77,600
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 medical appliances and devices.

High school diploma or equivalent $37,370
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 $40,870
Optometrists

Optometrists

Optometrists diagnose and treat visual problems and manage diseases, injuries, and other disorders of the eyes.

Doctoral or professional degree $115,250
Orthotists and prosthetists

Orthotists and Prosthetists

Orthotists and prosthetists design and fabricate medical supportive devices and measure and fit patients for them.

Master's degree $68,410

Contacts for More Info

Last Modified Date: Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Opticians,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/opticians-dispensing.htm (visited October 19, 2020).

Telephone: 1-202-691-5700 www.bls.gov/ooh Contact OOH

View this page on regular www.bls.gov

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