Opticians are responsible for fitting eyeglasses and contact lenses by following prescriptions that are written by optometrists or ophthalmologists. Opticians also examine prescriptions in order to determine lens specifications. They may recommend lens coatings, lens and frames for eyeglasses taking into considerations the habits, occupation and facial features of the customer. Other responsibilities of opticians include measuring the distance between the eyes of customers, the distance between the centers of a customer’s pupils and the measuring the ocular surface. A focimeter may be used for customers who do not have a prescription in order to record measurements for eyeglasses. Previous records of the customer may also be examined to re-create glasses or contact lenses.
Optician Job Responsibilities
Work orders are prepared by opticians and provided to ophthalmic lab technicians, who grind and insert the lenses into the selected frames. Information contained on the work order includes material, color, style and size. In some cases opticians may grind and then insert the lenses on their own. Once the glasses have been made, opticians must verify that the lenses have been ground to the correct specifications. They may then need to reshape the frame by hand or through the use of tools so that the glasses will fit properly. Opticians may also be responsible for adjusting and refitting broken frames. Instructions may be provided to clients regarding adapting to as well as caring for and wearing eyeglasses.
Following further education and training, opticians may choose to specialize in fitting artificial eyes, contacts or cosmetic shells. Opticians must also measure the size and shape of the eye in order to fit contact lenses. Work orders must be prepared to specify the prescription. Considerable patience, care and skill are required to fit contact lenses. Follow-up visits may be necessary in which opticians teach patients how to insert, remove and care for contact lenses. Opticians are also responsible for keep patient prescription records, work orders, tracking inventory, making payments and other administrative duties.
Opticians typically work indoors in environments that are well-lit and ventilated. They may work in small stores or medical offices. Some opticians work in large stores along with several other opticians. Opticians often spend time on their feet. Most opticians will work approximately 40 hours per week. Some may work longer. Those who work in retail stores may need to work weekends and evenings. Some opticians choose to work part-time.
The employment outlook for opticians is expected to grow approximately as fast as other occupations through the year 2014.
Optician Training and Education Requirements
Most opticians will receive on-the-job training or through an apprenticeship that may last two years or longer. Individuals seeking a career in this field should have knowledge of basic anatomy, physics, trigonometry and algebra. It is also important to have experience in computers. Training often includes instruction regarding optical physics, optical math and the use of measuring instruments. Opticians must also work directly with the public, therefore it is important for them to be polite, pleasant, tactful and have good communication skills. Precision abilities and manual dexterity are also important to performing this job well.
Structured apprenticeship programs are commonly offered by large employers. Informal on-the –job training is more often provided by small employers.
Optician Salary and Wages
The median annual earnings for opticians in 2004 was $27,950. The largest industries which employed opticians included health and personal care stores, physician offices and offices of other types of health practitioners.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Opticians are required to be licensed in approximately 20 states. In some states, candidates may be required to pass at least one of the following to obtain licensure: a state written exam, a state practical exam and certifications which are offered by the National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE) and the American Board of Opticianry (ABO).
In order to qualify for exams, it is not uncommon for states to require candidates to complete postsecondary work or training that can last from two to four years as an apprentice. Licensure renewal often requires continuing education. The state board of occupational licensing can often provide information regarding specific licensing requirements.
As an apprentice, individuals may also receive training in office management, sales and technical training. Apprentices work under the supervision of an optician, ophthalmologist or optometrist. During an apprenticeship, individuals work directly with the public fitting contact lenses and eyeglasses.
Formal training for this field is also offered in some community colleges as well as universities.
Opticians may also apply to the NCLE and ABO for certification of their skills. Applicants must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or equivalent in order to be eligible to take the exam. Some state licensing boards may also have other requirements for eligibility. Certification must typically be renewed every three years. Continuing education credits can be used to demonstrate licensure requirements have been met.
Opticians with experience may choose to eventually open their own stores. Others choose to manage optical stores or may eventually become sales representatives.
Optician Professional Associations
Professional associations for opticians include the following:
- National Academy of Opticianry
- American Board of Opticianry