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Optician Overview: Job Description, Certification & Salary

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Home » Specialties » Optician

The Basics

  • What you’ll do: As an optician—or dispensing optician—you’ll fill eye wear 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: $38,530

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

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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.

Certification

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.

Optician Salaries by State

Take a look at the median annual wage for your state:

Opticians, Dispensing

National data

Median Salary: $38,530

Bottom 10%: $26,080

Top 10%: $62,180

Projected job growth: 4%

State data

State Median Salary Bottom 10% Top 10%
Alabama $30,590 $22,160 $46,660
Alaska $57,310 $38,270 $77,650
Arizona $39,900 $27,930 $60,110
Arkansas $35,750 $24,750 $59,050
California $46,490 $31,240 $74,220
Colorado $40,060 $29,560 $57,690
Connecticut $62,820 $33,350 $83,630
Delaware $38,310 $25,670 $51,360
District of Columbia $53,320 $30,820 $72,840
Florida $39,350 $23,320 $63,730
Georgia $36,710 $26,160 $58,700
Hawaii $43,060 $21,460 $88,160
Idaho $32,540 $25,570 $46,340
Illinois $34,990 $20,820 $49,910
Indiana $31,050 $25,230 $43,790
Iowa $33,240 $26,330 $43,850
Kansas $33,200 $25,660 $42,840
Kentucky $35,620 $22,930 $57,680
Louisiana $30,790 $22,660 $41,330
Maine $44,630 $28,740 $60,690
Maryland $40,520 $28,820 $67,830
Massachusetts $51,940 $32,890 $69,020
Michigan $35,420 $26,100 $48,190
Minnesota $39,200 $28,840 $52,130
Mississippi $30,500 $25,780 $46,420
Missouri $32,090 $25,460 $46,570
Montana $36,260 $27,140 $52,310
Nebraska $33,720 $23,840 $46,800
Nevada $39,110 $26,650 $73,350
New Hampshire $41,430 $30,680 $54,950
New Jersey $61,910 $46,300 $78,540
New Mexico $34,490 $26,390 $52,370
New York $54,550 $26,950 $74,230
North Carolina $42,250 $28,220 $64,050
North Dakota $37,400 $27,940 $50,830
Ohio $43,710 $28,500 $58,050
Oklahoma $29,040 $21,870 $40,590
Oregon $42,910 $28,220 $70,450
Pennsylvania $34,490 $25,450 $51,760
Rhode Island $45,220 $25,210 $63,760
South Carolina $36,690 $25,990 $60,150
South Dakota $33,270 $26,130 $43,150
Tennessee $38,130 $21,930 $62,710
Texas $34,880 $25,110 $49,720
Utah $29,410 $18,820 $46,460
Vermont $47,180 $31,950 $71,910
Virginia $45,660 $23,040 $62,020
Washington $44,640 $32,340 $67,090
West Virginia $33,440 $24,050 $48,170
Wisconsin $36,180 $25,720 $50,120
Wyoming $32,150 $25,960 $40,960

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2020 median salary; projected job growth through 2029. Actual salaries vary depending on location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and other factors. Salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.