4 Facts Worth Knowing as You Consider Optician Training
Vision problems are very common, especially conditions like nearsightedness and farsightedness. In fact, over 150 million people in America use corrective contact lenses or eyeglasses. And that translates to more than $15 billion of spending on eyewear each year across the nation.*
As a result, people within the field of prescription eyewear dispensing are needed almost everywhere. They are part of an occupation that can be very social and satisfying. But here are four other interesting and beneficial aspects of this field:
1. Opticians Play a Special Role in Vision Care
The exciting thing about being an optician is that it's one of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to help people improve their vision and personal confidence. But some people get confused by all of the different job titles used within the broad sector of eye care. So it's important to understand the terminology. That way, you know for sure what you're getting into.
Here's how roles within the vision care industry break down:
- Opticians—They are sometimes called dispensing opticians, optical technicians, or ophthalmic dispensing technicians. The key thing to remember is that they assist customers with selecting the most appropriate eyewear. As part of that role, they often need to measure the distance between their customers' pupils and ensure that orders for custom lenses are matched up with the correct prescriptions.
- Ophthalmic laboratory technicians—These workers, sometimes called manufacturing opticians, specialize in actually making the eyeglass or contact lenses that are ordered. Frequently, they use equipment that automates a lot of the process.
- Optometrists—These professionals perform most of the primary care within this field, such as conducting eye exams, diagnosing and treating certain visual disorders, and prescribing corrective eyewear or medications if necessary. They typically need a Doctor of Optometry degree. But they are not considered medical doctors (MDs).
- Ophthalmologists—These physicians are specialized medical doctors who diagnose and treat diseases of the eye. They can perform a full range of examinations and treatments, including complex surgeries. Most of their patients come to them via referrals by optometrists.
2. The Demand Is Growing
Opticians are essential contributors to the well-being of millions of people throughout the country. And they're becoming even more necessary as certain trends in America increase in prominence. For example, some diseases that cause eye problems—such as diabetes—are on the rise. And the nation's population of older people is also increasing, which adds to the rising number of people who need prescription lenses.
That's why the employment of opticians in the U.S. is projected to grow by 24 percent between 2014 and 2024.** More and more opportunities are expected to open up within the offices of optometrists as well as in general and specialized retail stores that sell corrective eyewear.
3. It Doesn't Take Very Long to Become an Optician
Optician training tends to be relatively quick. In fact, most people in the field have earned an associate's degree, certificate, or diploma that only took two years or less of school. Many programs can even be completed in less than one year.
Just keep in mind that many states also require you to become licensed in order to engage in the dispensing of eyeglasses or contact lenses. In most cases, that means you simply need to pass certifying exams that are administered by the American Board of Opticianry & National Contact Lens Examiners.
Once you're officially an optician, all kinds of possibilities open up. People in this field even have their own professional organization—the Opticians Association of America.
4. The Pay Can Be Compelling
Considering the small amount of training they need, opticians often earn good wages. That's particularly true if they work in a state with licensure or certification requirements. In 2015, the average annual pay for an optician in the U.S. was over $36,800. And the highest-earning opticians made over $55,500 a year.***
Plus, an optician's salary can go even higher if he or she advances to a position such as manager of an optometry clinic or eyewear store.
*American Academy of Ophthalmology, website last accessed on February 6, 2015.
**Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, website last accessed on March 3, 2016.
***Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, website last accessed on April 21, 2016.