How to Choose an Optician Training Program

This article has information about how to select an optician training program. It also tells you why you may want to consider becoming an optician in today’s growing healthcare market. In addition, it has details about optician training programs that are worth considering.

What Is An Optician Training Program?

An optician training program is a one or two-year program after high school where you learn how to prepare prescription eyeglass lenses; assist customers to choose proper eyeglass frames, and tailor their frames to their specific facial measurements. When clients need to get contact lenses, they will adjust how the lenses fit the eyes as needed.

This training program teaches the student very important concepts to ensure that the glasses or contacts fit properly. For example, certain eyeglass prescriptions have a direct influence upon which frames to select; various prescriptions have different weight, thickness, and other variables.

Also, different frames sit differently on the nose, so a skilled optician needs to ensure that the frame is fitting properly on the face. He or she also will verify how well the lenses line up with your eyes. The optician has to ensure that the center of the lens is properly aligned with the center of the pupil.

In addition, this program will prepare you to do preliminary eye exams and to provide education to patients about how to select contact lenses, insert and remove them, and provide general care for the lenses.

Most programs feature a fieldwork component where you spend at least a semester working in an optical dispensary. This can be done either on the campus of the university you are attending or in your local area if you are doing an online program.

Becoming an optometric will require you to hold at least a high school diploma or a GED, which is followed by a two-year associate’s degree in opticianry. This program will involve classes in basic anatomy, the anatomy of the eye, algebra and trigonometry, optical physics and mathematics.

The coursework also will teach you about modern, precise facial measuring equipment and optical instrumentation. More advanced classes include how to fit contact lenses and also vision prosthetics.

Learning outcomes in an optician training program include:

  • Lay out, grind and polish ophthalmic lenses
  • Put tint on lenses
  • Insert glass lenses into many different frames
  • Verify that eyewear has been constructed accurately
  • Adjust and fit ophthalmic frames
  • Perform preliminary eye exams
  • Understand relevant legal and ethical standards

Optician training programs are available both at regular universities and community colleges and can be either two-year associate’s degrees or one-year certificate programs. Experts advise that you select an opticianry program that has been accredited by the Commission on Opticianry Accreditation.

These training programs can be either one or two years in length. Some schools offer a one-year certificate program, while others may offer a two-year associate’s degree program. You may find that some employers prefer you to have the associate’s degree, but it really depends from company to company.

After you have completed your training program, you may need to earn a license or certification in your state. State licenses are issued after you have completed a practical and/or written examination. Some states may mandate both tests.

Some states also mandate that you have either an associate’s degree or apprenticeship of at least two years. After completing your degree program, you also may attain voluntary certification by either the American Board of Opticianry or National Contact Lens Examiners. Having either of these certifications can help you to become a more desirable candidate in the job market.

Why Earn an Optician Training Degree?

Many students are choosing to become opticians today because the field is expected to grow very rapidly in the next decade. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the field is going to expand by a very healthy 24% by 2024. This rate of job growth is outstanding and indicates that students who choose this field will find work quite easily in most places.

This increase in jobs is being caused by an aging US population; this is leading to a higher demand for many types of eye care services in major US cities. People normally get more eye problems as they get older, so it is likely that more opticians will be needed as the US population ages in the next few decades.

Aging also leads to more chronic diseases that can have a negative effect upon eyesight. For example, there are more obese people today in America and this leads to a higher incidence of diabetes. This is a serious and chronic disease that can lead to serious eye problems. More opticians are needed to handle vision prescriptions for corrective eyewear for people who have damaged vision.

More opticians are finding employment in group medical practices, as well. More ophthalmologists and optometrists are now offering contact lenses and glasses to patients; this is an effective way to expand their business. These offices are fitting patients with glasses and contacts, so there is need here for more opticians.

Job demand is just one reason for becoming an optician. Another is the solid starting pay. BLS reports that the median salary in the field is $35,500, while the top 10% earn up to $57,000 per year. This is a good salary, when you consider the fact that you can enter the field with only a two-year associate’s degree, or a one-year certificate. 

Accreditation

Students who are considering either a two-year associate’s degree or one-year certificate program in opticianry are recommended to keep the matter of program accreditation in mind.

A program that has been accredited provides you with the assurance that the degree or certificate program has met high-quality standards in the field of opticianry.

The most respected accreditation body in this field is the Commission on Opticianry Accreditation or COA. This organization accredits both two-year associate’s programs and one-year certificate programs. This organization strives to foster excellence in opticianry education by developing high standards to assess educational effectiveness in these programs.

If your program has been accredited by COA, potential employers can be confident that you have learned the necessary skills to be a successful and competent optician.

Summary

Becoming an optician is a good way to take advantage of the large job growth occurring in the healthcare field in the United States today. Jobs in this specialty are growing very rapidly and will continue to do so for years to come. Earning this degree or certificate takes only a short time, and the starting salary is quite respectable. For these reasons, choosing an optician training program can be a very good start to a long, successful career.

References

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