If you are trying to decide if you should go to optician school, it might be helpful to read about what your job will be like after you graduate.
After You Graduate
Once you have an associate’s degree or a technical certificate in the field, you may have to get licensed. About half of the states in the U.S. require opticians to have some type of license. If you haven’t been to school you will have to enter an apprenticeship to earn your license, which usually takes around two years. You will have to pass a series of exams, and you may also want to become certified in contact lens dispensing or eyeglass dispensing. These certifications also require that you pass exams. After doing so you will need to update your license or certification every one to two years to ensure that you are staying up-to-date on professional knowledge.
As an optician, you will work at an eye doctor or eye retailer and assist customers who wear eyeglasses or contacts. When you see customers they will give you a prescription for one type of eyewear and you will have to help them choose frames or lenses. You might ask them questions about their vision needs, such as if they need special gear for sports, or if they need tints or a reflective coating. You will write work orders for ophthalmic technicians, detailing the types of lenses you need. You might adjust eyeglasses frames so that they fit your customers better, replace or repair damaged or broken frames, and educate customers about how to take care of contact lenses. You might also perform administrative tasks, such as filing prescriptions, maintaining inventory, ordering supplies, and keeping track of sales records. Depending on where you work, you might also take on some of the responsibilities of an ophthalmic technician, such as cutting lenses and fitting them for frames.
Work Environment and Schedule
Most opticians are employed in the office of opticians, although some also work in personal care/health stores, general merchandise stores, and physicians’ offices. You might work in a free standing location or you might be employed in a large department store. There will be some flexibility in your schedule as an optician. Most work full time, but if you want to work part time there are usually opportunities available. If you work for a doctor’s office you will probably work fairly regular office hours, but opticians who work for retail locations might have to work evenings and weekends.
Opticians average around $33,033 annually, although some make $21,020 or less, and others make $52,740 or more. This is about on par with the average for all occupations, which is saying something since you need two years or less of schooling to get hired! You will make the most money as an optician if you work in a healthcare or personal store. You will make slightly less if you work in a physician’s office, followed by an optometrist’s office. You will average the lowest income if you work in a general merchandise store.