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Optician

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Overall Score
(6.2 out of 10)

Number of Jobs

15,800

Median Salary

$33,330

Unemployment Rate

5.2 percent

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This Job is Ranked in
Best Health Care Jobs #29
The 100 Best Jobs #60

If you wear glasses or contact lenses, then you’re probably used to visiting an optician on a regular basis. They are charged with fitting people with eyewear and selecting the right type for their eyes and lifestyle. They typically work in stores that sell eyewear or in private practice, sometimes inside medical practices that also offer other types of optometry services as well. Their job has a style component, too, since patients also want their glasses to look good. “The bulk of your day is interacting with patients, trouble-shooting any of their needs, identifying subscription needs, discussing lifestyle options, understanding the design of the lenses, as well as being a fashion expert. Patients want to be trendy and fashionable, too,” says Kristi F. Green, a master optician who lives in the Richmond, Va., area. That’s why she says she likes to think of opticianry as a “nice mix between science and art.” Opticians need to know how to use various tools and measuring devices to ensure a good fit on patients’ faces, too. Green points out that if glasses aren’t comfortable, people won’t enjoy wearing them.

Opticians work in a growing field: Between 2012 and 2022, the Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates 23.4 percent employment growth in the field, which translates into 15,800 new jobs. Much of this expansion can be attributed to the growth in the country’s older population leading to increased demand for eye care services.

Salary

The BLS reports that opticians earned a median salary of $33,330 in 2012. The best-paid earned $52,740 while the lowest-paid earned $21,030. Those who earned the highest salaries worked in outpatient care centers, hospitals and medical equipment manufacturing. Top-paying areas include Worcester, Mass., Trenton, N.J., and New Brunswick, N.J.

Salary Range

75th Percentile $42,700
Median $33,330
25th Percentile $25,930

Training

Opticians usually get on-the-job training, but some opt for a two-year associate degree in opticianry as well. Specific requirements vary by state, with some states requiring a license. Green explains that most opticians either earn the two-year degree or complete a three-year apprenticeship. A bachelor’s degree is not required. The American Board of Opticianry also offers a certificate, which some employers require, to those who have successfully completed a written exam.

Reviews & Advice

Green encourages aspiring opticians to spend a day or two shadowing opticians in various environments, including retail and private practice, to get a better sense of what the job entails. “You need some math skills and at least be comfortable with algebra and trigonometry,” she says. Employees also want to hire opticians with strong people skills, since the job involves interacting with people all day. “It’s not necessarily a job choice for a very introverted individual,” Green adds, although she says there are some lab jobs for opticians that involve very little customer interaction.

Job Satisfaction

Upward Mobility good Above Average
Stress Level good Below Average
Flexibility good Above Average
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Last updated by Kimberly Palmer.


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