How to Become an Optician in Pennsylvania

The average annual salary for an optician in PA is over $40K.  Once you complete the necessary training, you should be able to find work anywhere in the Keystone State.

Education & Training

Jumpstart your optometrist career by enrolling in online certification program:

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

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    Program Outcomes

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    You will be ready to take any of the following industry certifications:

    • National Opticianry Competency Exam (NOCE)
    • Contact Lens Registry Exam (CLRE)

    Coursework

    A typical curriculum looks like this:

    1. Fundamentals of Opticianry

    • Understanding the Role of an Optician
    • Preparing for the NOCE and CLRE Exams
    • Laws, Regulations, and Guidelines in Opticianry

    2. Anatomy and Physiology of the Eye

    • Parts of the Eye
    • Understanding Refractive Errors
    • Ocular Pathology and Systemic Conditions Affecting the Eyes

    3. Optical Mathematics and Principles

    • Simple Math and Algebra Concepts for Opticians
    • Light, Prentice’s Rule, and Abbe Values

    4. Ophthalmic Lenses and Prescriptions

    • Ophthalmic Lens Designs
    • Understanding and Assigning Spectacle or Glasses Prescriptions
    • Lens Materials and Treatments
    • Effective Power and Compensated Power Calculations
    • Prisms and Decentration

    5. Frames and Adjustments

    • All About Frames
    • Basics of Frame Adjustment and Dispensing

    6. Measurement and Instrumentation

    • Lensometry and Other Measurement Devices
    • Multifocal Lens Considerations
    • Keratometry and Corneal Topography
    • Slit Lamp Biomicroscopy

    7. Contact Lenses

    • Contact Lens Prefitting
    • Soft Contact Lenses
    • Rigid Gas-Permeable Contact Lenses
    • Hybrid and Scleral Lenses
    • Orthokeratology and Keratoconus
    • Contact Lens-Related Conditions and Pathology

    8. Exam Preparation and Review

    • Midterm Exam
    • Comprehensive Optician Review
    • Final Exam (Cumulative)
    • Optional Career Roadmap Lesson

    Additional Preparation

    • Preparing for the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) Exam

    Tuition & Duration

    Total cost is about $2,000 and you should expect to study for about 6 months.

    Salary Range for PA

    Below is a survey of the average optician salary in the state:

    Below is some data for regions of the state from the BLS:

    Area Hourly Annual
    Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton $21.30 $44,300.00
    Altoona $18.75 $39,000.00
    Chambersburg-Waynesboro $19.42 $40,380.00
    East Stroudsburg $19.36 $40,280.00
    Erie $18.90 $39,310.00
    Harrisburg-Carlisle $20.80 $43,260.00
    Johnstown $17.18 $35,730.00
    Lancaster $20.77 $43,200.00
    Lebanon $19.48 $40,510.00
    Northern PA $19.38 $40,300.00
    Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington $23.05 $47,950.00
    Pittsburgh $19.72 $41,010.00
    Reading $19.89 $41,370.00
    Scranton–Wilkes-Barre–Hazleton $19.47 $40,490.00
    Southern PA $18.14 $37,730.00
    State College $18.78 $39,050.00
    Western PA $19.08 $39,680.00
    York-Hanover $19.19 $39,920.00

    Occupation: Opticians, Dispensing (SOC Code292081)
    source: data.bls.gov

    PA Optician Requirements

    Most trade schools require students to have their high school diploma or GED to apply.

    The Pennsylvania State Board of Optometry regulates the practice and licensure of opticians, but there is no official licensing requirement for opticians in the state.

    However, employers in Pennsylvania determine their own hiring requirements for opticians, so job seekers should consider becoming certified or obtaining a license.

    Optician Certification

    Those with dispensing optician certification or licensure often get more job offers at higher salaries than non-certified or unlicensed candidates.

    There are two types of certifications for optician school graduates:

    • National Opticianry Competency Exam (NOCE)
    • Contact Lens Registry Exam (CLRE)

    Both are from the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) and National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE).

    Individuals can take the exam for one or both titles.

    The state board uses the National Board of Examiners in Optometry (NBEO) to certify test takers.

    Both exams test students on their knowledge and skills based on what they learn in the classroom and through practical training experience. By passing either certification exam, opticians can then apply for a license.

    Becoming a Licensed Optician in PA

    While Pennsylvania may not require opticians to have a license, some employers might.

    Most vision care offices require applicants to either complete formal training or have their certification, which is also necessary for obtaining a license.

    Therefore, becoming a licensed optician often leads to more job opportunities.

    Steps to Take

    The steps to becoming a licensed optician in PA are:

    1. Complete an accredited opticianry training program or apprenticeship
    2. Pass one or both national certification exams
    3. Visit the State Board of Opticianry for other licensing requirements

    Licensing

    After gaining licensure, practicing opticians can renew their licenses every one to three years. To do so, they must complete around 30 hours of continuing education credits. These may be available at local trade schools, technical colleges, or via the employer.

    Job Description

    People who wear glasses or contact lenses often receive the assistance of an optician. Similar to technician jobs in healthcare, dispensing opticians work in vision care.

    They assist patients by fitting them for eyeglasses or contacts based on a prescription written by an ophthalmologist or optometrist.

    Responsibilities

    They perform clinical and administrative tasks that can include:

    • Measuring a client’s eyes and face for eyeglass fittings
    • Adjusting, repairing, and replacing eyewear and frames
    • Aiding clients in selecting eyeglass frames
    • Informing clients about different styles of eyewear, their features, and proper care techniques
    • Teaching clients how to insert, remove, and care for contact lenses
    • Preparing work orders for laboratory technicians
    • Maintaining patient and sales records
    • Keeping track of product and supply inventory
    • Shaping or reshaping frames to fit the client’s face

    Additional Tasks

    Opticians in smaller offices or private eye clinics might also work as ophthalmic lab technicians. Lab techs in vision care prepare custom orders for patients based on their prescriptions. They cut, shape, and install the lenses in the patient’s chosen frames. This hands-on role typically requires additional training.

    Optician vs. Optical Technician

    Some people in the industry may use the terms “optician” and “optical technician” interchangeably, primarily if they work in a facility where the same person performs multiple duties. However, these two titles designate different jobs.

    An optician’s primary task is ensuring that a patient or customer’s eyeglasses and contact lenses are a precise fit for their eyes and face.

    Meanwhile, an optical technician assists the optometrist by performing tests on a patient’s visual accuracy, eye pressure, and color vision. Techs also obtain patient records, check the patient’s insurance coverage, answer phones, schedule appointments, and calibrate or repair eye examination equipment.

    Career Outlook

    Those looking to start their career in vision care as an optician can expect a 4% rise in demand nationally. In other words, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts approximately 6,700 job openings for opticians each year by 2031. This increase primarily results from workers advancing in the field, transferring to other careers, or retiring.

    Optician jobs in Pennsylvania could also see similar demand. As the general population gets older, age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and other vision complications could increase, causing a greater need for corrective lenses, surgeries, medications, and other eye treatments.

    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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