Employment Trends Healthcare

How to Become an Optician

Written by Kate Lopaze

There’s a famous episode of The Twilight Zone where a stressed man survives a nuclear apocalypse, and is thrilled to be left alone with nothing to do but read great books, only to have his essential reading glasses broken beyond repair. If you’re familiar with it, or you depend on your glasses and contact lenses, you might be extra thankful for your optician. Opticians are healthcare professionals who work with ophthalmologists, optometrists, and patients to make sure that glasses and contact lenses are exactly as prescribed and customized for the patient. Opticians are key players in helping us see the world clearly. Here are some information on how to become an optician.

The Day-to-Day

Opticians, also known as dispensing opticians, work in medical offices or retail stores. They take a vision prescription from a doctor (typically an optometrist or an ophthalmologist) and work with the patient to find and fit the correct eyewear. They may also perform eye tests that help the ophthalmologist determine a patient’s prescription. Once the prescription is established, the optician is usually the one to help the patient select and fit glasses or contact lenses, educate patients on follow-up care, and manage patient records. Informally, the optician may be able to provide you with good insight into whether that pair of glasses looks good on you, but formally he or she can also make sure that your prescription is accurate, that everything fits comfortably, and that your eyewear works with your lifestyle and needs. They serve an essential role in vision healthcare.

Opticians typically work standard 40-hour workweeks, but this may include evenings and weekends, especially in retail eye clinics and stores. Also, because of the retail component, customer service is often a big part of the job.

For more on what it’s like to be an optician, check out these videos:

An Optician’s Main Focus

Optometrist vs Ophthalmologist vs Optician

The Requirements

Becoming an optician doesn’t require a specific four-year degree. Many enter the field with a high school diploma, though some have an Associate’s degree or a certificate from a community or technical college. On-the-job training is more of a focus in this field than a specific degree. About half of U.S. states require that opticians are licensed, so be sure to check your own state’s requirements.

Opticians should have strong skills in customer service, management, communication skills, math, and basic anatomy.

The Pay

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), opticians earn a median salary of $34,280, or $16.48 per hour.

The Outlook

Thanks to our electronic devices causing eye strain for the foreseeable future, the future is bright for opticians. The BLS expects demand for opticians to grow by 24% by 2024.

About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.