How to Become an Optician in California

Using their exceptional customer service skills, attention to detail, and eye for fashion, opticians in CA help customers select prescription eyewear that fits them perfectly and complements their unique sense of style.

Education & Training

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    Step one is getting a high school diploma, GED, or equivalent. Once you have your diploma, you’ll need to undergo supervised opticianry training so you can learn the necessary skills for the job.

    How Will You Benefit?

    You will be ready for the Basic American Board of Opticianry (ABO) exams, which also includes the NOCE (National Opticianry Competency Exam) and the CLRE (Contact Lens Registry Exam).


    How Long is Does It Take?

    The programs above take 6 months. Other optician apprenticeships and certificate programs usually take 1 year to complete.

    Programs may take up to 18 months at some schools, especially if you attend classes part-time. Meanwhile, it takes at least two 2 years to obtain an optician degree.

    How Much Does it Cost?

    About $2,000.  Generally speaking, a 1 year optician course at a community college costs up to $4,000. Two year degree programs range between $4,000 and $10,000 at most institutions.

    Additional Optician School Expenses

    Course textbooks and supplies usually cost $300 to $800 at most optician schools in California. If you attend a school that prepares students for the official optician licensing exam, you may also have to pay an additional $400 for specialized study materials.

    What Do You Study?

    Courses at optician schools in CA typically include the following:

    • Fundamentals of Opticianry
    • Ocular Anatomy and Terminology
    • Basic Mathematics for Measuring, Shaping, and Fitting Eyewear
    • Ophthalmic and Contact Lens Dispensing

    Students also learn to interpret optometrist and ophthalmologist prescriptions to ensure accuracy when placing eyeglasses and contact lens orders.

    Customer service and communication classes can be beneficial as well since optician jobs in California require excellent customer service skills.

    Optician Apprenticeships

    Apprenticeships at stores and optometrist or ophthalmologist offices have a stronger focus on the customer service aspects of the optician field. Those who choose this training method learn how to

    • Organize patient records
    • Stock product shelves
    • Manage inventory
    • Use eyewear repair and reshaping tools
    • Practice effective sales techniques
    • Maintain a friendly and professional attitude when interacting with customers

    California Optician Requirements

    Opticians in California must have an official certification in order to work in healthcare settings and retail stores.

    To obtain your license and legally dispense eyeglasses and contact lenses in the state of California, you’ll need to pass the following exams through the National American Board of Opticianry and National Contact Lens Examiners:

    Becoming Licensed

    Once you pass one or both of these certification exams, you must register your license with the California State Board of Optometry.

    To do this, candidates must submit the following items:

    • Proof of identity
    • A copy of your high school diploma, GED, or optician training program certificate
    • NOCE and CLRE exam scores
    • An application form
    • Receipts showing that you paid the $150 application fee and the $200 registration fee
    • A clean criminal background check report

    It usually takes three to five weeks for the Optometry Board to process each application.

    At the end of that period, successful applicants receive their Spectacle Lense Dispenser and Contact Lens Dispenser credentials and can begin looking for optician jobs in California.

    Do Opticians in California Need Degrees?

    Although you must complete a formal education program to qualify for optician jobs in California, there is no state requirement for a particular program type.

    Because of this, you might consider enrolling in one of the following:

    • Opticianry Apprenticeships: High school graduates can participate in paid apprenticeships through California’s Department of Industrial Relations to receive on-the-job training.
    • Certificate or Diploma Programs: Several California trade schools offer accredited optician courses for students hoping to qualify for jobs in this field.
    • Optician Degrees: Getting an optician degree can give you the foundational education you need to pursue an optometrist or ophthalmologist degree in the future.


    The average optician salary in California is about $55,363 per year. However, wages vary depending on where you live and work.

    Below are some average salaries and hourly wages for areas of the state.

    State Hourly Annual
    Bakersfield $23.83 $49,560.00
    Chico $26.52 $55,160.00
    Fresno $25.10 $52,210.00
    Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim $28.79 $59,880.00
    Merced $25.83 $53,720.00
    Modesto $29.24 $60,820.00
    North Valley-Northern Mountains $21.57 $44,860.00
    Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura $28.53 $59,350.00
    Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario $28.23 $58,720.00
    Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade $28.45 $59,170.00
    Salinas $25.36 $52,740.00
    San Diego-Carlsbad $32.21 $66,990.00
    San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward $30.22 $62,860.00
    San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara $32.17 $66,920.00
    San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande $27.29 $56,770.00
    Santa Cruz-Watsonville $26.53 $55,180.00
    Santa Maria-Santa Barbara $33.41 $69,480.00
    Santa Rosa $29.58 $61,520.00
    Stockton-Lodi $27.07 $56,300.00
    Vallejo-Fairfield $31.11 $64,710.00
    Visalia-Porterville $26.46 $55,050.00

    Occupation: Opticians, Dispensing (SOC Code292081)

    California opticians working in private optometry and ophthalmology clinics typically earn more than those with jobs in retail stores. In some cases, you may be able to negotiate a higher salary if you have previous customer service experience or have completed an optician certificate or degree program.

    Job Description

    What Do They Do?

    Opticians in CA fill optometrist and ophthalmologist prescriptions and ensure each customer receives eyewear that suits their preferences. During their interactions with customers, opticians gather information about the person’s:

    • Prescription
    • Eye and face measurements
    • Choice of eyeglasses, contact lenses, or both
    • Eyeglass frame shape, color, and style preferences
    • Desired lens treatments, coatings, and tints
    • Insurance provider and coverage

    After collecting this information, the optician submits a work order to the on-site optical technicians who create eyewear based on the customer’s specifications. Opticians may also reshape or adjust eyeglass frames to ensure a perfect fit for each patient.

    Career Outlook

    Reports from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics show a predicted four-percent increase in the demand for optician jobs over the next decade. As more opticians in CA change career paths to become optometrists and ophthalmologists, qualified candidates may see as many as 6,700 optician jobs in California becoming available each year between 2021 and 2031.

    Search Optician Certification Training Programs

    Get information on Optician Certification Training programs by entering your zip code and request enrollment information.

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