The primary job of an optician is ensuring that their patients have the best eyesight they possibly can. Opticians do this by following prescriptions written by optometrists or ophthalmologists, and fitting their patients with the correct eyeglasses or contact lenses. These professionals select the appropriate lenses and lens coatings for their patients, and recommend the appropriate frames. In order to do this effectively, opticians must take into consideration the facial features, habits and occupations of their clients. Opticians also use special diagnostic instruments to take various readings of their client’s eyes which may include the cornea’s thickness, curvature, width and surface topography.
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Another task that the optician is charged with is to prepare work orders for ophthalmic technicians. These work orders give the laboratories the precise information they need to grind the lenses and insert them into the client’s eyeglass frame. These work orders give detailed instructions on the eye prescription of the client, as well as the characteristics of the frame.
A responsibility of many opticians is the refitting of eyeglass frames, and fixing frames that have been broken. The optician may also spend a considerable amount of time doing administrative work such as keeping client records, organizing client prescriptions and keeping track of their office’s inventory. Many opticians choose to further their education and specialize in artificial eyes or fitting cosmetic contact lens to adorn eyes that have structural defects or blemishes.
Career Outlook For The Optician
Due to the increased need for corrective lenses among the elderly population, and the fact that this segment of the population is growing at a rapid pace, the job outlook for opticians is expected to rise at a rate of greater than thirteen percent per year. As people in this segment of the population continue to live longer, there will be an even greater need for opticians in the future.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Another thing that is boosting growth in this job field is the rise in the number of occupational hazards that may limit a person’s visual capacity. These hazards include exposure to UV rays and eye strain from continuously staring at computer monitors. What is offsetting this trend is the increased number of people who choose to get corrective laser surgery, though all future projections still point to pretty steady growth over the next twenty years.
Work Environment For The Optician
Opticians work in indoor facilities such as department stores, medical offices and optical stores. Opticians generally spend a large percentage of their day standing on their feet and must protect themselves from the occupational hazards of their job. These hazards include chemicals and machinery used in the production of lenses, and glass particles caused from cutting of the lenses. While the majority of opticians work regular business hours, those opticians employed in department stores may have to work weekends and holidays.
While many employers hire applicants as opticians without any training and train these applicants themselves, the majority of opticians have some form of secondary education. Basic prerequisites for opticians include courses in basic anatomy, algebra, physics and trigonometry. Computer courses are also valuable courses for the aspiring optician.
Formal secondary education is offered by many community colleges, as well as universities. Currently, the Commission on Opticianry Accreditation has accredited twenty-two associate degree programs in thirteen states. Graduation from one of these accredited colleges or universities greatly increases the number of job opportunities available to the optician because it provides a nationally verifiable credential.
Licensing Requirements For The Optician
Half of the States in the United States require some form of licensure for the optician to apply his trade, the rest have no formal licensing requirements. Those States which do require opticians to be licensed require them to pass one or more tests to receive that license. These tests may include a written exam, a practical exam, and a certification exam from the American Board of Opticianry (ABO). They may also be required to take an examination by the National Contact Lens Examiners Association (NCLE). To qualify for these examinations, an optician usually has to complete post-secondary training or work an apprenticeship for a period of four years. Those who receive certifications from the NCLE and ABO must renew these certifications every three years to keep practicing as opticians.
Salary For Opticians
The salary for opticians is based upon their geographical location and the industry in which they work. Those employed by department stores or optometrists generally have a lower annual income than those employed in general merchandise chains or health care stores. The national median annual wages for opticians are around $32,820 each year. Those new to the field generally earn less than $22,225 per year. Those opticians who have established careers can generally make in excess of $50,000 per year.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
The benefits in which opticians are eligible for are largely determined by the industry in which they are employed. Those who work in smaller retail stores usually have fewer benefits than those who work for department stores or optical chains. Opticians working in their own practice have to furnish their own benefits.
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