Opticians help people find the right eyeglasses or contact lenses by considering their vision needs and personal styles. Since qualified eye care professionals can specialize in different areas, there are several types of optician jobs available. Opticians might specialize in creating contacts and cosmetic fittings, grinding and setting eyeglass lenses into frames, performing repairs, or making sales. Professionals may work in optometrist offices, hospitals, retail stores, or private practices.
An optician uses prescription information from a patient's optometrist as well as facts about the patient to create the right pair of glasses. Often, the optician will take careful measurements of the patient's eyes and facial features using specialized equipment to determine what type of glasses will provide the most comfort. Further, the optician typically asks the patient about what the glasses will be used for, anticipated physical activities, and preferred styles before creating a pair of glasses. Once all of the information is gathered, the optician relays the information to a technician to grind lenses and set them in the proper frames. Some opticians, especially those who work in private practices and retail stores, personally grind and set lenses.
Some optician jobs entail creating contact lenses or fitting prosthetic eyes and cosmetics. Opticians make very detailed measurements of patients' eyes to determine the proper shape and size of new contacts or false eyes. Many other optician jobs involve repairing damaged eyeglasses and providing general customer service in a retail setting. In addition to eye care, opticians manage customer accounts, make sales, and take inventory.
To become an optician, a person must typically have at least a high school diploma or GED, though many employers prefer applicants who have completed one or two year opticianry programs. Such programs are commonly offered by community colleges and accredited online schools. New opticians frequently take part in paid two to four year apprenticeship programs, where they assist experienced opticians and learn the trade firsthand. In the United States, apprentices and new opticians are usually required to pass written and practical licensing exams administered by specific states before they can work independently.
Since opticianry is a relatively small field, there can be intense competition for optician jobs. Opticians who have successfully completed apprenticeships and have a strong educational background have the best chances of finding optician jobs, especially in medical offices. New fashion trends and technological advances in eyeglasses and contact lenses increase the demand for skilled, knowledgeable eye care professionals in all work settings.