Opticians, also known as dispensing opticians or prescription opticians, design, fit and dispense lenses and contact lenses to improve their clients' vision. They use prescriptions written by ophthalmologists and optometrists to determine the specifications of lenses. Some dispensing opticians that have received additional training fit artificial eyes or cosmetic shells to cover blemished eyes.
Based on factors including the prescription, the clients' occupation, facial features and habits they recommend lenses, lens coatings and eyeglass frames to their clients. Dispensing opticians also ensure that eyeglasses properly fit their customers.
They determine exactly where the lenses should be placed by measuring the client's face. Dispensing opticians use complex diagnostic instruments when fitting new eyeglasses. They provide the optical laboratory with vital information including size, shape, color and prescription of the lenses.
After receiving the eyeglasses the prescription optician measures and adjusts the glasses for the client until the glasses fit properly. They also provide instructions regarding adapting, wearing and caring for glasses. They also fix and refit broken frames.
Dispensing opticians that have gained additional training fit clients for contact lenses. They choose the appropriate type of contact lens material and develop work orders for the laboratory. They also provide instructions regarding the proper technique for inserting, removing and caring for contact lenses.
- Take measurements of clients' eyes area
- Determine client's current lens prescription
- Ensure finished lenses have been grounded to specifications
- Develop work orders and instructions for fabricating eyeglasses and grinding
- Help clients choose frames
- Make recommendations for specific lenses, lens coatings and frames
- Evaluate clients' prescription in conjunction with clients' avocational and vocational visual requirements
- Adjust eyeglasses to fit clients
- Repair damaged frames
Dispensing opticians usually work in optical stores, medical offices, department stores and club stores. Most dispensing opticians work standard business hours. Those working in retail stores may work during the evenings and weekends. Since opticians interface with the public they should have good communications skills. They should also have good manual dexterity and be able to perform precision work.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has forecasted employment for opticians to rise by 12 percent during the 2008 to 2018 timeframe. Demand for these workers will expand due to the growth of the middle aged and older population. Middle aged is often the time when people need corrective lenses for the first time. However, the increasing use of laser surgery to correct vision problems may somewhat tone down the need for optician services.
Employment for opticians at optometrist's offices is projected to be particularly good. Job opportunities at general merchandise stores are also projected to be good. Those that have completed a formal opticianry program and have certification may have the best job opportunities. A thorough knowledge of the newest technology should be beneficial for opticians looking for employment.
Education, Certification, and Licensing
Most opticians have taken some college classes or have earned a degree. Training is provided by community colleges and some colleges and universities. Beneficial classes include basic anatomy, physics, trigonometry and algebra. Knowledge about computers is also beneficial. The Commission on Opticianry Accreditation has provided accreditation to a number of associate degree programs. Graduating from an accredited program provides a nationally recognized credential.
Structured apprenticeship programs for opticians are more commonly available in states where licensing is not mandatory. These programs are typically provided by large employers. Apprentices work with patients to fit eyeglasses and contact lenses under the supervision of opticians, ophthalmologists or optometrists.
Numerous states require dispensing opticians to be licensed. The requirements for a license vary by state. In some states, candidates must complete postsecondary training or work as an apprentice for two to four years in order to qualify to take certification examinations. In some states, graduates of opticianry programs are allowed to take the licensure exam immediately after they graduate; whereas other states require a few months to a year of experience. License renewal typically requires continuing education.
Opticians can apply for certification of their skills to the American Board of Opticianry and the National Contact Lens Examiners. Certification signals a certain level of expertise to employers and customers.
The top employers are optometrist offices, optical goods stores, health and personal care stores, department stores, warehouse clubs and general merchandise stores.