Optician Salary

Opticians play a vital role in the ophthalmic industry. They work close alongside optometrists and ophthalmologists, following their written orders. They also work closely with ophthalmic laboratories to make sure that clients are properly fitted with their eyeglasses or contact lenses. Some opticians continue their education so that they can fit contact lenses, artificial eyes or cosmetic shells that fit over damaged or blemished eyes.

Opticians work in a variety of different industries which include general merchandise stores, health stores, doctor’s offices, department stores and optometrist offices. Opticians who have gained experience in their field often open their own optical stores or work in a management capacity for various manufacturers and retailers.

Salary Overview

There are a number of factors which determine how much an optician is going to earn. These factors include geographic location, industry in which they are employed and education level. Larger urban areas tend to have the highest median wages for opticians while rural areas tend to have the lowest median wages.

The median pay for the optometrist also tends to fluctuate greatly between the various industries in which they are employed. Opticians who work in general merchandise stores tend to have the highest wages with the average being around $40,000 per year as of 2010. Health stores tend to offer opticians the next highest rate of pay which is about $34,000 per year. The bottom ten percent of the industry work in optometrists offices and on average they earn approximately $30,000 per year as of 2010.*

*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/

Opticians also receive benefits in addition to their salary. These benefits include paid sick leave, health benefits, vacation time, dental and eye care insurance and retirement benefits. Opticians are often offered profit sharing by their employers and may receive bonuses for completion of large orders.

Job Description and Outlook

Helping people see better is the primary job of an optician. Opticians follow prescriptions written by optometrists to select and fit the proper eyeglasses and contact lenses for patients with various eye problems. They make recommendations on lenses, various lens coatings and frames according to the occupation, facial features and optometrists prescription to ensure that the patient has the best eyeglasses available. To complete this goal, opticians uses a variety of scientific equipment to measure the particular characteristics of a patients eyes including the thickness, width and curvature of the cornea.

Opticians also prepare the work orders that enable the ophthalmic technicians to grind the lenses down to the correct dimensions. These work orders include information pertaining to the material, size, color and style of frames to be used. Other duties of the optician may include grinding the lenses themselves, repairing and refitting broken frames and keeping orderly records of work orders, prescriptions and payments.

Employment growth for opticians are projected to rise slightly above average and reflect the increasing need for stylish eyeglass frames and corrective lenses. As of 2010, opticians held about sixty thousand jobs in the United States. About forty percent of these professionals work in optometrists offices, thirty-three percent worked in health stores and about thirteen percent worked in doctor’s offices. Less than one percent of trained opticians were self-employed and ran their own business.*

*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/

Training and Education Requirements

Although only a high school diploma is needed to work as an optician, most employers want their employees to have completed at least two years of secondary education and twenty-two states require the optician to be certified. Opticians often take classes that prepare them for their job which include courses in optical physics, optical mathematics and the proper use of precision measuring equipment.

The typical curriculum that an aspiring optician studies includes courses in basic anatomy, algebra, trigonometry and basic computer classes. Formal training in this field is usually offered by community colleges, but some four year universities also offer courses. As of 2010, twenty-two associate degree programs in thirteen states have been accredited by the Commission on Opticianry Accreditation. Graduation from one of these programs is quite beneficial to the aspiring optician as it provides a credential that is recognized on a national level and increase employment options. This can also have a great impact on the earning potential of the optician.


Optician can apply to the American Board of Opticianry or the the National Contact Lens Examiners for certification of their skills. This certification is an assurance to customers and employers that a certain level of expertise has been achieved by the optician. This certification must be renewed every three years through continuing education. This certification is only required by twenty-two states. Texas offers opticians voluntary registration for opticians.

Professional Associations

There are two professional associations that offer certification to opticians.

  • American Board of Opticianry (http://www.abo-ncle.org/)
  • National Contact Lens Examiners (http://www.abo-ncle.org/)

Professional associations that represent the interests of opticians.

  • Opticians Association of America (http://www.oaa.org/index.php)

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