How to Become an Optician in Pennsylvania
Opticians assist customers or patients at eye doctor’s offices or department store vision centers.
To become an optician in Pennsylvania, job hopefuls must have the right education and proper training or experience.
Education and Training
Accredited Training Program
The minimum entry-level education a person needs to become an optician is a high school diploma or GED. Those interested in learning how to become an optician in Pennsylvania should consider enrolling in an accredited training program. Trade schools in PA offer online and on-campus training for future opticians.
By attending a training program, students learn the ins and outs of working in vision care from the optician’s perspective. Courses cover information about the eye and eye care as well as administrative tasks.
These classes cover topics like:
- Eye physiology and anatomy
- Optical physics
- Optical math
- Optical theory
- Patient care
- Use of precision measuring instruments
- Office and business management
Types of Programs for Opticians in PA
Optician training equips students with the knowledge, skills, and practical training necessary to perform their roles. These programs offer in-class instruction on various topics as well as clinical training, and some may require an internship.
Programs accredited by the Commission on Opticianry Accreditation prepare students for future certification.
There are three forms of post-secondary education for practicing opticians.
After graduating high school, prospective students can attend a diploma or certificate program and earn their education in less than a year. Some community colleges offer two-year associate degrees in opticianry, while a few universities in PA have bachelor’s degree programs available as well.
Some opticians start their career and education via on-the-job training and work under the direct supervision of a senior optician. Job hopefuls can also complete a 2-year apprenticeship program rather than attending a trade school. Many private practices or vision care chain stores offer this alternative route to becoming an optician in Pennsylvania.
Other Educational Opportunities
The Pennsylvania Optometric Association is a helpful resource for prospective opticians. Affiliated with the American Optometric Association, the POA provides members in the state with post-graduate educational opportunities and many benefits, such as networking, name recognition, and licensing assistance.
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. Those with dispensing optician certification or licensure often get more job offers at higher salaries than non-certified or unlicensed candidates.
Opticians may also obtain additional certifications and licenses to increase their chances of getting hired and earning higher wages.
There are two types of certifications for optician school graduates. They include the eyeglass and contact lens dispensing exams 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:
- Complete an accredited opticianry training program or apprenticeship
- Pass one or both national certification exams
- Visit the State Board of Opticianry for other licensing requirements
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.
Optician Salaries in Pennsylvania
The average optician salary in Pennsylvania is more than $35k, which equates to a little over $17.00 an hour. Entry-level opticians make closer to $28k a year, while experienced opticians can earn above $39k annually. Certified and licensed opticians often make more based on their knowledge, skills, and credentials.
Optician Salaries in PA by City
The average optician salary in PA varies based on metropolitan areas. Listed below are a few of Pennsylvania’s most populated cities, as well as the median annual wage of the dispensing opticians who work there:
- Philadelphia – $38,550
- Allentown – $36,100
- Erie – $35,370
- Reading – $34,940
- Pittsburgh – $34,790
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.
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
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.
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.