How to Become an Optician in California
If you’re hoping to begin a promising healthcare career, consider becoming an optician.
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
Wondering how to become an optician in California? 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.
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.
What Do You Study?
Most aspiring opticians attend classes online or at a local community college or trade school. 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.
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
How Long is Optician School in CA?
Optician apprenticeships and certificate programs usually take one year to complete. However, course lengths vary across different institutions. Programs may take up to 18 months at some schools, especially if you attend classes part-time. Meanwhile, it takes at least two years to obtain an optician degree.
Optician Certificate Program Costs
Tuition costs vary depending on the school and program you choose. Generally speaking, a one-year optician course at a community college costs between $600 and $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.
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:
- The National Opticianry Competency Examination (NOCE)
- The Contact Lens Registry Examination (CLRE)
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.
Optician Salaries in CA
The average optician salary in California is about $55,363 per year. However, wages vary depending on where you live and work. Take a look at the table below to learn about the average annual salaries in different parts of California.
- Los Angeles $56,564
- San Francisco $60,868
- Palm Springs $51,406
- Oakland $60,883
- Anaheim $56,402
- San Diego $58,772
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.
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:
- 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.
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.