How to Become an Optician

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Optician Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year $33,680
Avg. Pay / hour $16.19
Education 2-3 Years
Job Outlook 27%

When we speak about opticians, we need to describe their roles and duties so that you can determine whether this career path is the right one for you.

The first person that people encounter when they are in need of vision care is an optician.

You can find an optician involved in customer service and work in vision care stores.

Among many things that they perform during the course of the day, these are typical duties of opticians:

  • They are in charge of receiving patient’s prescriptions for eyeglasses or contact lenses
  • Also, they have to measure customers’ eyes and faces, e.g. the distance between their pupils so as to make sure they will provide suitable glasses.
  • They should help customers choose eyeglass frames and lens treatments, depending on their vision needs and style
  • Their duty is to create work orders for ophthalmic laboratory technicians, by providing the necessary information about the lenses.
  • If asked, they have to adjust eyewear to ensure a good fit, as well as repair or replace eyeglass frames
  • Their job is to educate customers about eyewear
  • Last but not least, they have to be familiar with business tasks as well, such as maintaining sales records, keeping track of customers’ prescriptions, and ordering and maintaining inventory

Now that you have decided that an optician career is the one for you, let’s learn how you can become an optician:

Earn a Certificate or Associate’s Degree

Yes, you are right, a Certificate is not obligatory for opticians to perform their job, as there are certain optometry offices that hire opticians with only a high school diploma and later on provide on-the-job training.

However, we always suggest formal postsecondary education as it is necessary for licensure in some states.

If you decided to enroll either in an associate’s degree or a certificate program, your studies will require that you attend classes, perform laboratory work as well as practical training.

Some of the classes you will have to take are optics principles, ocular anatomy, lab procedures, contact lenses, ophthalmic dispensing, and ophthalmic materials.

So as to be able to develop practical skills, you are advised to go through clinical experiences.

During those clinical experiences, you will get a chance to work under the supervision of an experienced optician, thus gaining practical skills.

Complete an Apprenticeship

Prospective opticians can enroll in an apprenticeship in some states, which typically last for two years.

There are different requirements in distinct states, so in Massachusetts, an apprentice must complete a minimum of 6,000 hours of work within a 3-year period.

Attain State Licensure

You need to bear in mind that almost half of all U.S. states require licensure for opticians and you are suggested to get it.

The optician licensing board in each state determines the requirements for licensure and all licensing boards use the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) and National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE) certification exams for the licensure process.

Some of them even require a state practical exam.

Only eligible people can sit for the licensing exam.

So, you must graduate from an approved training program or complete an apprenticeship to be allowed to take the exam.

Once you become licensed, you will be required to complete continuing education hours to remain licensed.

Earn Certifications

Even in those states that do not oblige opticians to have licensure, you should consider earning the basic and advanced certifications offered through the ABO for glasses and NCLE for contact lenses.

To be able to take the basic exam, you just need to be 18 or older, while the advanced certification requires several years of experience and advanced education.

Optician Job Description

Opticians can be found working at vision care centers available all over the country.

These centers can be located in shopping centers, malls, and individual business locations.

As we have already mentioned, a license is required in 21 states so that you can get an optician job.

In the states that do not require a license, the criteria for the hiring process are set by the hiring vision care center.

However, possessing an ABO certification to work as an optician would definitely increase your chances of obtaining an optician job.

Optician Salary and Career Path

When we speak about becoming an optician, it is important to mention how much you will earn once you become employed.

The average salary of an optician is $37,860 annually, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Still, experienced opticians may earn much more.

You need to know that different states offer higher pay rates and Massachusetts offers the highest salary for opticians, with an average annual salary of $60,740.

The salary will also depend on the location of a vision care center, as those in metropolitan areas earn a greater amount of money.

Just like other medical fields, opticians are experiencing great job growth, and a 27% increase in optician jobs in the years to come is expected.

This means that a lot of new job opportunities will be offered with the industry growth.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$41,370
New Hampshire$44,440
New Jersey$62,300
New Mexico$37,540
New York$56,640
North Carolina$44,830
North Dakota$38,540
Rhode Island$44,160
South Carolina$44,100
South Dakota$34,480
West Virginia$33,230
Puerto Rico$23,880

The top earning state in the field is Connecticut, where the average salary is $66,540.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Connecticut - $66,540
New Jersey - $62,300
Massachusetts - $59,840
New York - $56,640
Alaska - $55,900
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Opticians, OCC Code 29-2081, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an optician?

An optician is a person who is there to help you when you have vision problems.

Opticians are directly involved in customer service in vision care stores and their duties are numerous.

Of course, those more experienced and educated opticians can be found working for optometrists in more of a medical setting.

Generally speaking, opticians work with customers but it is good to know that they are not only limited to customer service.

How much does an optician make?

The average salary is $37,860 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics according to the salaries from all states, but you are suggested to get familiar with the average salary in your state, as they highly vary.

For example, in the state of Massachusetts, the average salary of an optician is $60,740 annually while in Alaska it is only $44,770.

California boasts about 8,040 dispensing opticians employed, while Wyoming has only 240 dispensing opticians.

Due to the increasing need for opticians, it is expected a 24% job growth among dispensing opticians in the next 10 years, due to the rise of the elderly population in the United States.

How much does it cost to become an optician?

In order to become an optician, you will typically need to meet certain requirements and how much you will have to pay depends on the level of education you want to reach.

Training programs are available at many schools and colleges, and tuition fees for the Optical Technician program are about $17,850 per year.

Study materials can cost about $100 and the program can be completed in 9 months.

Being that no degree is required to become an optician, you can always choose to attend on-the-job training programs that take about two years to complete and are paid.

Average annual Community College costs are $600-$5,400 and in those 21 schools accredited through the Commission on Opticianry Accreditation tuition ranges from $4,670 to $9,590.

What is the demand for opticians?

The demand for opticians is huge, and throughout the United States, there are new positions opening up on a daily basis.

If you do research of optician job listings you will find a list of well-paying jobs and this is the consequence of the elderly population who has eye problems and are in need of vision care.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the number of optician jobs will increase by 24% by the year 2024.

How long does it take to become an optician?

If you decide to attend an optician program, you will have to devote two years to get the proper education, after which you will be awarded an Associate’s Degree in Ophthalmic Dispensing.

These programs last four semesters if you attend them on a full-time basis.

Opticianry education can be attended in community colleges, junior colleges, four-year colleges, technical schools, and vocational institutes throughout the country.

Also, future students can choose to attend a post-secondary school that offers an optician certificate program, as it takes less time to complete.

These certificate programs typically last one year, but only the essentials of opticianry are taught.

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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