Optician Overview: Job Description, Certification & Salary
Being an Optician: The Basics
What you’ll do: As an optician—or “dispensing optician”—you’ll fill eyewear prescriptions written by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. You’ll write work orders to help ophthalmic lab technicians correctly fill prescriptions, and help patients select the frames and lens styles that best suit their needs and facial features.
Where you’ll work: Opticians usually work in a medical office or in a retail environment. Both full- and part-time positions are generally available.
Degree you’ll need: High school diploma or GED and completion of a 1- to 2-year certificate, diploma or associate degree program.
Median annual salary: $35,530*
Optician Job Description
Your daily duties as an optician will likely include the following:
- Help clients select the type of glasses most appropriate for their lifestyle
- Take clients’ facial measurements
- Customize glasses to suit client’s faces by making adjustments to the frames
- Keep customer records up-to-date
- Work with insurance companies to maximize your clients’ benefits
- Track sales and inventory
The Difference Between an Optician, Optometrist, and Ophthalmologist
- Optician: Works with optometrists and ophthalmologists by filling their prescriptions and dispensing eyewear.
- Optometrist: Although not a medical doctor, an optometrist has a post-bachelor’s degree in optometry and is licensed to practice. In addition to performing eye exams and prescribing glasses and contact lenses, in some states optometrists are also licensed to prescribe drugs for eye problems and perform eye surgeries, such as foreign-body removal.
- Ophthalmologist: A medical doctor licensed to practice medicine and perform eye surgery. Ophthalmologists treat and diagnose eye diseases, prescribe medication and also fit patients with glasses and contact lenses.
Regulations vary from state to state, however certification is highly recommended because most employers require it. The American Board of Opticianry (ABO) and the National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE) offer national certification and testing for opticians. Opticians must re-certify every 3 years.
Ready to Get Started?
Since most opticians only need an associate’s degree, certificate, or diploma, you can begin your new career in less time than most allied health careers. To search for optician training degrees and programs near you, just use the “Find Schools” buttons at the top and bottom of this page!
*Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2018-19 Occupational Outlook Handbook; Opticians, Dispensing. The salary information listed is based on a national average, unless noted. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.