Optician technicians fit eyeglasses and contact lenses for patients after they have undergone an eye exam and received a prescription from an optometrist. They also help patients pick out eyeglass frames or contact lenses to suit their needs. Optician technicians, also just called opticians, do not need a formal degree to begin work, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many have just a high school diploma, and some complete an apprenticeship program. Some states may require a degree for opticians to be licensed.
Formal education programs for opticians can last anywhere from six weeks to two years. Some certificate programs provide a basic but expedited overview of the skills opticians need on the job in a few short weeks or months. Associate degree programs take up to two years and include more comprehensive training and advanced study. The program that an aspiring optician chooses depends on the state licensing requirements. Some states require at least a two-year degree for opticians to be licensed. Completing a formal degree program instead of a certificate or diploma may also improve an optician's job opportunities after graduation.
Certificate and diploma programs for opticians focus on basic skills that opticians need. For example, the six-week program at El Centro College in Dallas, Texas, includes training in opthalmic laboratory procedures, advanced opthalmic dispensing, vision care office procedures, and job search and employment skills. The Opticians Association of America says that course work for longer programs, such as the associate degree, include training in optics, eye physiology, optical mathematics, optical physics and the use of precision-measuring instruments. Course work in physics, anatomy, algebra and trigonometry should also be included.
Required Courses for Licensing
Some states don't just require a minimum education level for opticians wishing to become licensed, they also require specific course work. For example, New York State requires licensing applicants to have at least one year of mathematics such as algebra or geometry to be licensed. Since the minimum education requirement is a high school diploma, students can take these courses in high school. However, those who did not meet these requirements in high school will need to do so in college, which can rule out shorter certificate programs.
The Opticians Association of America says that 23 states require opticians to be licensed. Licensing usually involves meeting the eligibility criteria and then passing a written exam and a practical exam. Aspiring opticians living in states that require licensing will not have as many choices for formal education. Instead, they will have to complete the program specified by the state licensing board. In some cases, this may be a minimum of a high school diploma, like in New York, but in many states, it is at least a two-year associate degree.