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Optician Degree

Opticianry can be defined as the practice of dispensing eyeglasses, fitting contact lenses, and filling prescriptions for lenses. Opticians usually work alongside doctors of optometry, and are trained to examine patients for vision problems, and correct vision problems through optical aids and eyeglasses. The rising demand for glasses and contact lenses, increasing elderly and middle aged population, and technological developments like no-glare lenses have increased the need for opticians.

Studying Opticianry as an Academic Discipline

To become an optician, individuals are required to have at least a high school diploma. However, due to an increasing competition in the industry, it is recommended that prospective opticians have at least an Opticianry degree, diploma, or certification in the field. A number of vocational schools are offering Optician programs to students. There is no exact academic route that leads to this career. On-the-job training is also offered by many employers. Before enrolling in any school, make sure it is accredited by the Commission on Opticianry Accreditation.

Associate Degree in Opticianry

This is an undergraduate Opticianry program that aims to prepare students for a career as an optician. The program focuses on the art and science of developing and fitting eyeglasses, lenses, and other visual aids.
The coursework revolves around theoretical learning and practical skill development. In the start of the program, students will learn about the anatomy of the eye. Opticians are required to have some knowledge of how human eyes function, and what factors affect eye vision. Students will be required to cover a number of courses, such as:

  • Anatomy, physiology, and pathology of the eye

In this course, students will learn about the principles of human physiology and body systems. Students will understand the effects of ointments, drops, and related eye medications. The course will also highlight common diseases of the eye and their basic characteristics.

  • Optical theory

This course will explore a range of concepts such as the development of multifocal lenses, properties of spherocylinder lenses, and prism rotation. Students will analyze optics of ophthalmic prisms and lenses.

  • Optical laboratory theory

In this course, students will acquire familiarity with the terminology used in the field, instruments used in Opticianry, and other materials.

  • Optical dispensing theory

Students will build skills needed for dispensing Opticianry products. The course will highlight the history of the profession, and help students learn how to measure, analyze, and adjust eyewear according to prescriptions.

  • Contact lens theory

In this course, various theories of contact lenses are explored. Students will gain an insight in the many designs available in contact lenses.

  • Optical dispensing clinical

This is a practice-oriented course that focuses on refinement of skills. Students will practically learn how to measure frames and lenses, select appropriate lenses according to patient requirements, and apply various adjustment techniques to create a finished product.

Opticianry Diploma

This is a short course that aims at providing students with theory, practical skills, and an in-depth understanding of Opticianry healthcare. Students will gain expertise needed to create, customize, repair, and dispense vision devices.
The program will cover a range of topics that provide students with basic knowledge of human systems, and specialized knowledge of dispensing vision products. Here are some of the courses students are most likely to study in the program:

  • Eyeglass dispensing lab

This is an introductory course that prepares students for work in dispensary. Students will gain hands on experience and will learn how to dispense eyeglasses by following the standard dispensing procedures.

  • Geometric optics

In this course, students will learn about the theory of physical optics and optical systems. Students will be required to participate in problem-solving assignments.

  • Eyeglass fabrication

Students will develop advanced skills needed for finishing glasses.

  • Applied ophthalmic optics

Students will learn about the geometric optics and applications of physical optics in dispensing. The course will allow students to examine base curves, aberrations, and lens power.

Learning Outcomes of Opticianry Programs

  • Provide optical care that meets professional standards
  • Demonstrate proficiency when dispensing eyewear
  • Understand how to dispense different types of eyewear, which includes basic refraction, contact lenses, low vision devices
  • Gain an in-depth understanding of how optical businesses functions (retail and clinical settings)
  • Demonstrate strong communication and advocacy skills
  • Apply specialized knowledge when adjusting and fitting eyeglasses and other vision devices
  • Develop strong analytical and problem solving skills

Optician Courses Online

Now it is possible to pursue an optician degree online. Students in an online program will have the flexibility to design their own study schedule. There are no requirements for attending on-campus classes; however, colleges may ask students enrolled in an online optician program to attend a few on-campus classes for hands-on learning.

Admission Criteria

A high school diploma or GED will be needed to qualify for enrollment in optician courses at associate level. It would be helpful if applicants have background knowledge in basic sciences. Apart from this, applicants may also have to provide letters of recommendation. Please keep in mind that the admission requirements will vary from college to college.

Optician Certification

The American Board of Opticianry (ABO) is a recognized organization that offers certifications in this field. A professional certification can help improve career prospects as many employers prefer hiring individuals who are certified. ABO offers basic and advanced certifications in Opticianry. Individuals are required to pass the basic certification exam successfully. Those who are seeking more advanced credentials after acquiring substantial work experience can qualify for the advanced Opticianry certification offered by ABO. It is also possible to prepare for an optician certification online.


Most states require opticians to have a professional license. The requirements for licensing will vary from state to state. Typically, individuals will be required to gain on-the-job training and complete an apprenticeship program to qualify for a license. You can check with your state’s licensing board to learn more about the licensing process.

Employment Outlook

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2012, 39% of opticians were employed in offices of optometrists whereas the remaining workforce was found employed in general merchandise stores, offices of physicians, and healthcare stores.
The annual median wage was $33,330 in 2012. Factors such as state, employer, skill, and qualifications will determine the exact income potential of an optician.

States with the highest employment level in this occupation:



Employment per thousand jobs

Location quotient

Hourly mean wage

Annual mean wage

California 1660 0.11 1.26 18.13 37720
Florida 1130 0.14 1.68 17.97 37370
Illinois 960 0.16 1.92 17.9 37240
Texas 760 0.07 0.78 16.62 34570
New York 650 0.07 0.85 20.12 41840


How Long Does It Take to Complete an Optician Degree?

Those who wish to pursue a career as an optician can consider getting a 1-year certificate or a 2-year associate degree from a community college or a university. Entry to such programs usually requires students to at least possess a high school diploma or its equivalent. The Miami Dade College only offers a 2-year associate degree in Opticianry. On the other hand, the Broward College offers a 1-year certificate of Ophthalmic Eyecare Technician as well as a 2-year associate degree in Opticianry. For better career prospects, it is safer to choose aschool that has been accredited by the Commission on Opticianry Accreditation (COA).

What Are the Requirements of Completing an Optician Degree?

The requirements to complete an optician degree vary for each degree and certification. The criteria of completing a degree are based on credit hour requirements and curriculum intensity. For example, the students of a 2-year associate degree offered at the Miami Dade College and the Broward College must complete 72 credit hours of course work and lab practicals as well as clear exams to graduate.

How Much Can I Make after Completing an Optician Degree?

After completing a degree in Opticianry, graduates must obtain a license to practice. Although not all states require opticians to be licensed, but having a license is beneficial for a brighter career outlook. To be licensed, graduates need to pass a state-conducted exam. Most states use the ABO-NCLE (American Board of Opticianry-National Contact Lens Examiners) Certification exams to issue a license. As per data reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2018, Opticians earned an annual median income of $37,010.

Frequently Asked Question(s)

Q:What are the objectives of an optician certification?

A:Once you complete your optician certification, you will be qualified to get an entry level position as an optician in a medical or retail setting. If you have a high school diploma or GED, be prepared to take the American Board of Optometry exam. This would allow you to demonstrate that you exceed entry level requirements and are maintaining and have been able to maintain an appropriate level of knowledge and experience in the field.

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