Dispensing Opticians

What Do Opticians Do?

Opticians are often the 2nd professional patients see after visiting an optometrist or ophthalmologist, because they are the ones that fill the prescription for eyeglasses or contacts.  For anyone who has issues with the eyeglass or contact lens fitting, visiting an optician is an option as their main role is helping in the selection of proper eye wear.  One of the main roles of dispensing opticians, is to take care of eye wear prescriptions so when patients come in the optician helps find the proper eye wear, eyeglass frames or contact lenses to meet the patient’s needs in every facet from fashion to occupation. Opticians ensure that the eye wear is fitted properly, is comfortable, the prescription is filled accurately with the right eyeglass lenses or contact lenses, and the patient is properly informed of any issues like how to wear and how to care for.  They also handle customers who come in with repair or replacement needs and help with the correction of issues. This may require contacting the optometrist or ophthalmologist to verify the prescription, and performing administrative duties such as order management and customer reconciliation. It is easy to see that opticians handle various consumer issues regarding their eye wear so customer service skills are necessary to succeed.

What Opticians Don’t Do?

Optician putting on glasses

Opticians can handle plenty of functions in a store from customer care to management but there are many functions that they are not qualified to complete. This includes anything related to providing medical diagnosis to a patient such as determining a different prescription, testing for eye conditions or diseases, or anything similar to what an optometrist or ophthalmologist should handle. Thus, an optician should not change eyeglass prescriptions without the consent of the patient’s eye care doctor, and they should not provide medical treatment regarding the eyes.

Licensed Opticians and Education

To become an optician a person can either be accepted in an apprenticeship program or by getting hired for the position with some formal education, which is the highly selected option. There are several colleges that offer Ophthalmic Dispensing Degrees or other related degrees that allow a student to be educated and ready to accept a position. From there, they will learn on the job much like an apprenticeship, but they will already have a solid background. Read the Optician School and Education page for detailed information. There are 21 states that require dispensing opticians to be licensed which can include anything from exams, training, and continuing education. The American Board of Opticianry and the National Contact Lens Examiners offer certification exams for opticians to show expertise to a certain extent, as these are part of some state licensing as well. Read Licensed Optician for more information.

Optician Salary and Work Area

Opticians can work in many areas but the majority is employed by optical stores like the ones found in Wal-mart, major chains like Pearl Vision, and by offices of doctors or optometrists who have their own store. Some opticians branch out with their own store or into higher management positions. Optician salaries can often vary depending on experience, location, size of the business, and the industry.  An optician working in a small city for a small office can make around $19,000 while another experienced optician with a management role can make higher than $45,000. Opticians can also work at hospitals and clinics, become sales reps for wholesalers, or take up teaching positions. The optician salary page list salary by state and the optician career and advancement page discusses different opportunities.

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