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.
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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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.