To become an optician, candidates must fulfill many different types of optician qualifications, ranging from education to licensure to communication skills. Some opticians fulfill their training requirements on the job, while others attend specialty schools. In general, advancement within the field is dependent upon the optician's formal education and whether he holds a license. The specific optician qualifications that are required will vary from country to country. For example, some, but not all, states in the United States require opticians to be licensed, and some people may also opt for certification by a professional optician organization.
An optician is not an eye doctor, so he cannot perform eye exams, write prescriptions, or check for vision problems like cataracts and glaucoma. Instead, opticians work with optometrists to help patients select contact lenses or eyeglasses. They discuss the individual patient's needs with him and offer recommendations on lens coatings and eyeglass frames. Some opticians grind lenses, fix broken frames, and perform office work like record-keeping and inventory tracking. An important qualification is versatility, because opticians must be able to perform many different tasks.
The most basic educational requirement to become an optician is a high school diploma. Candidates should have taken courses in mathematics, sciences, and basic anatomy. This provides a foundation for more advanced optician qualifications, such as formal education. In the U.S., opticians typically complete an associate's degree program, but some universities do offer a four-year bachelor's degree program for opticians. Candidates should select a school program that is accredited by the Commission on Opticianry Accreditation (COA).
While a formal degree in the field can broaden an optician's job opportunities, it is also possible to learn the trade through an apprenticeship. Candidates will work with an optometrist or an experienced optician to learn how to work with patients and how to use the equipment. The length of the apprenticeship will vary from employer to employer.
Optician qualifications may also include earning a license or certificate from a professional organization. Depending on the candidate's geographical location, a professional license may be required. In the U.S., the National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE) and the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) both offer national certification exams.
In addition to national certification, some states require a certain amount of education or training before a candidate can obtain a license. After fulfilling the prerequisites, the candidate will likely need to pass a written exam and a practical exam offered by his state's professional licensing board. Once the candidate fulfills the required optician qualifications, he can expect to participate in continuing education courses to maintain his certification.