How to Become an Optical Technician in 5 Steps

Find out the typical work responsibilities of optical technicians as well as training required. Get information about optional certification and employment outlook along with median annual salary data. Schools offering Electrical Engineering degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Optical Technician?

An optical technician is a specialist who assists optometrists and ophthalmologists by producing eyeglasses according to their specifications. Although you might perform the cutting, grinding and polishing of lenses for glasses by hand, precision machines increasingly handle these functions. Your other duties include evaluating prescriptions and work orders to determine lens parameters; selecting lens blanks for processing; cleaning finished lenses; attaching temple pieces, nose pads and shields to frames; mounting lenses in frames; adjusting the alignment of frames; and repairing broken frames.

Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma

A high school diploma or GED is often enough education to become an optical technician. O*Net OnLine reports that about 76% of technicians have a diploma (www.onetonline.org). Math, science, wood and metal shop, drafting and computers are examples of high school classes that might help you develop the mix of tool-handling and technical skills you need for this position.

Step 2: Consider Earning a Certificate

Although a relatively small number of technicians have a postsecondary education, certificate programs in optical technology, optometric technology or related titles are available from community and technical colleges. Such programs teach you to interact with customers, interpret prescriptions, use lens fabrication equipment and maintain equipment. Courses may also cover optical physics, optical materials and contact lenses.

Step 3: Consider Certification

It isn't mandatory, but you can obtain certification from the American Board of Opticianry by passing their National Opticianry Competency Examination (NOCE). To be eligible you must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma. The exam tests your ability to fit glasses and other devices, interpret prescriptions and use ophthalmic equipment.

Step 4: Obtain a Job

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), medical equipment manufacturers are your leading employment prospect (www.bls.gov). You may also find positions with optometrists, retailers, hospitals and equipment wholesalers. In 2008 about 35,200 people held jobs as optical technicians. Over the years 2008-2018, employment is projected to rise 15% to 40,400 technicians. Estimated figures for 2010 show employment at 27,880, excluding any technicians who were self-employed. As of May 2010 you could have potentially earned a median annual salary of $27,970.

Step 5: Advance Your Career

Your advancement options depend on how much additional education you're willing to consider obtaining. In settings with multiple employees, work experience might be enough for you to become a manager or supervisor of other technicians. Otherwise you could earn an associate's degree in opticianry to become a dispensing optician or in optometric technology to become an optometrist assistant. If you earned a certificate your may be able to apply your credits towards a degree.

For any career beyond those you need significantly more education. Becoming an optometrist requires a Doctor of Optometry degree. Ophthalmologists must earn an M.D. degree and then specialize in ophthalmology.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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