Opticians held about 74,500 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of opticians were as follows:
|Offices of optometrists||41%|
|Health and personal care stores||30|
|Offices of physicians||11|
Opticians who work as part of a group optometry or medical practice work with optometrists and ophthalmologists to provide eye-related medical care to patients.
Opticians who work in large retail establishments, such as department stores, may have to work evenings and weekends. Most opticians work full time, although part-time opportunities also are available.
Opticians typically have a high school diploma or equivalent and receive some form of on-the-job training. Some opticians enter the occupation with an associate’s degree or a certificate from a community college or technical school. About half of the states require opticians to be licensed.
Education and Training
Opticians typically have a high school diploma or equivalent and learn job skills through on-the-job training. Training includes technical instruction in which, for example, a new optician measures a customer’s eyes or adjusts frames under the supervision of an experienced optician. Trainees also learn sales and office management practices. Some opticians complete an apprenticeship, which typically takes at least 2 years.
Other opticians complete a postsecondary education program at a community college or technical school. These programs award a 2-year associate’s degree or a 1-year certificate. As of 2017, the Commission on Opticianry Accreditation accredited 19 programs in 11 states.
Education programs typically include both classroom instruction and clinical experience. Coursework includes classes in optics, eye physiology, math, and business management, among other topics. Students also do supervised clinical work that gives them hands-on experience working as opticians and learning optical math, optical physics, and the use of precision measuring instruments. Some programs have distance-learning options.
The National Academy of Opticianry offers the Ophthalmic Career Progression Program (OCPP), a program designed for individuals who are already working in the field. The OCPP offers opticians another way to prepare for licensure exams or certifications.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
About half of the states require opticians to be licensed. Licensure usually requires completing formal education through an approved program or completing an apprenticeship. In addition, opticians must pass one or more exams to be licensed. The opticianry licensing board in each state can supply information on licensing requirements.
Opticians may choose to become certified in eyeglass dispensing or contact lens dispensing or both. Certification requires passing exams from the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) and National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE). Nearly all state licensing boards use the ABO and NCLE exams as the basis for state licensing. Some states also require opticians to pass state-specific practical exams.
In most states that require licensure, opticians must renew their license every 1 to 3 years and must complete continuing education requirements.
Dispensing opticians typically have an interest in the Building, Persuading and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Persuading interest area indicates a focus on influencing, motivating, and selling to other people. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.
If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Persuading or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a dispensing optician, you can take a career test to measure your interests.
Dispensing opticians should also possess the following specific qualities:
Business skills. Opticians are often responsible for the business aspects of running an optical store. They should be comfortable making decisions and have some knowledge of sales and inventory management.
Communication skills. Opticians must be able to listen closely to what customers want. They must be able to clearly explain options and instructions for care in ways that customers understand.
Customer service skills. Because some opticians work in stores, they must answer questions and know about the products they sell. They interact with customers on a very personal level, fitting eyeglasses or contact lenses. To succeed, they must be friendly, courteous, patient, and helpful to customers.
Decision-making skills. Opticians must determine what adjustments need to be made to eyeglasses and contact lenses. They must decide which materials and styles are most appropriate for each customer on the basis of their preferences and lifestyle.
Dexterity. Opticians frequently use special tools to make final adjustments and repairs to eyeglasses. They must have good hand-eye coordination to do that work quickly and accurately.
The median annual wage for opticians was $37,840 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $25,640, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $60,840.
In May 2019, the median annual wages for opticians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
|Offices of physicians||$42,010|
|Health and personal care stores||37,760|
|Offices of optometrists||36,370|
Opticians employed in retail settings may work evenings and weekends. Most opticians work full time, although part-time opportunities also are available.
Employment of opticians is projected to grow 7 percent from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations.
The growth in the older population is anticipated to lead to greater demand for eye care services. Because people usually have eye problems more frequently as they age, the need for opticians is likely to grow with the increase in the number of older people.
Increasing rates of chronic diseases such as diabetes also may increase demand for opticianry services because some chronic diseases cause vision problems. Additional opticians will be needed to fill prescriptions for corrective eyewear for individuals with conditions that damage their eyesight.
However, employment growth is expected to be constrained by increases in productivity that will allow a given number of opticians to serve more customers.
Having an associate’s degree from an accredited program and American Board of Opticianry (ABO) and National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE) certifications may improve an applicant’s job prospects.
For more information about opticians, including certifications and a list of state licensing boards for opticians, visit
For a list of accredited programs, visit
For more information about optician education, visit