How to Become an Optician
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.
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.