California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Opticians, Dispensing in San Diego County

May also be called: Certified Opticians; Contact Lens Technicians; Licensed Dispensing Opticians; Licensed Opticians; Ophthalmic Dispensers; Optical Technicians; Optometric Assistants; and Optometric Technicians

What Would I Do?

The primary role of the Dispensing Optician is to assist customers in selecting and fitting eyeglasses, contact lenses, or other corrective eyewear. After the ophthalmologist or optometrist writes the prescription, the Optician spends time with the customer deciding on frame style and lens treatments, such as tints and coating options. For contact lens users they discuss lens types and tints. They make recommendations based on the customer’s vision needs, occupation, habits, and facial features. Dispensing Opticians take measurements for size of eyeglass frames or contact lenses to ensure proper fitting.

A work order is then submitted to an ophthalmic lab technician to grind and set the lenses in the frame. In some cases, such as in small offices, Dispensing Opticians may grind and set the lenses themselves.

Dispensing Opticians make sure that all of the specifications are met. They fit the eyeglasses to the customer and make adjustments as needed. They manipulate and bend the frame to ensure a comfortable fit and instruct the customer on how to care for their eyewear. Fitting contact lenses to a customer takes more time, patience, and precision. Opticians need to ensure that the lenses fit correctly and comfortably. They instruct the customer how to insert, remove, and care for their contact lenses. The Dispensing Optician may also repair frames, maintain customer and sales records, and order inventory.

Tools and Technology

Dispensing Opticians use a variety of tools and technology in their work. Tools and equipment include calipers, autorefractors, lens measuring equipment, lensometers, eye charts, files, hex wrenches, and optical hand tools such as screwdrivers, tweezers, and pliers. Other office tools include computers, cash registers, and credit or debit card processing machines. They also use medical, point of sale (POS), and project management software in their daily tasks.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Evaluate prescriptions in conjunction with clients' vocational and avocational visual requirements.Critical Thinking
Assist clients in selecting frames according to style and color, and ensure that frames are coordinated with facial and eye measurements and optical prescriptions.Customer and Personal Service
Recommend specific lenses, lens coatings, and frames to suit client needs.Oral Comprehension
Measure clients' bridge and eye size, temple length, vertex distance, pupillary distance, and optical centers of eyes, using measuring devices.Near Vision
Prepare work orders and instructions for grinding lenses and fabricating eyeglasses.Written Expression
Verify that finished lenses are ground to specifications.Reading Comprehension
Heat, shape, or bend plastic or metal frames to adjust eyeglasses to fit clients, using pliers and hands.Finger Dexterity
Instruct clients in how to wear and care for eyeglasses.Speaking
Maintain records of customer prescriptions, work orders, and payments.Information Ordering
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Dispensing Opticians usually work indoors in attractive, well-lit, comfortable offices. They may work in a stand-alone retail location, in a section of a large department store, or as part of an optometry or medical practice that treats patients as well as sells optical goods.

Dispensing Opticians must be able to work in a fast-paced environment and stand for extended periods of time. In locations that prepare lenses, Dispensing Opticians need to take precautions against work hazards involving glass cutting, chemicals, and machinery. Most Dispensing Opticians work a 40-hour week though some, who run their own business, may work longer hours. Those who work in a retail store may work part time, evenings, and weekends.

Opticians are typically not represented by unions.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Optician may appeal to those who enjoy starting up and carrying out projects. This occupation involves leading people, making decisions, and dealing with business. People who value working independently while providing service to others should enjoy this type of work.

Employers seek self-motivated, personable individuals who are organized and detail-oriented. They must also have excellent communication, customer service, and sales skills.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

Wages

The median wage in 2015 for Opticians, Dispensing in California was $37,517 annually, or $18.04 hourly. The median wage for Opticians, Dispensing in San Diego County was $38,815 annually, or $18.67 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2015Low
(25th percentile)
Median
(50th percentile)
High
(75th percentile)
California$28,878$37,517$48,458
San Diego County$29,669$38,815$53,183
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2015 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas

Benefits

Most Dispensing Opticians receive medical, dental, and life insurance as well as vacation and sick leave. Some employers also offer retirement plans. Opticians who are self-employed will need to provide for their own medical insurance, retirement plans, and other benefits.

What is the Job Outlook?

An aging population is expected to increase the demand for eye care services, as eye problems typically increase as people reach middle age. The need for Opticians should grow as a result. Other factors contributing to the demand include awareness of the importance of eye exams and fashion influences for frames and contact lenses. However, employment growth may be tempered as productivity increases allow for a given number of Opticians to serve more customers.

In addition, more Opticians are finding employment in group medical practices. Optometrists and ophthalmologists are increasingly offering glasses and contact lenses to their patients as a way to expand their businesses, leading to a greater need for Opticians in those settings.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Opticians, Dispensing is expected to grow faster than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Opticians, Dispensing are expected to increase by 17.3 percent, or 1,300 jobs between 2012 and 2022.

In San Diego County, the number of Opticians, Dispensing is expected to grow faster than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Opticians, Dispensing are expected to increase by 24.4 percent, or 110 jobs between 2012 and 2022.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Opticians, Dispensing
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Estimated
Employment
Projected
Employment
Numeric
Change
Percent
Change
Additional Openings
Due to Net
Replacements
California
(2012-2022)
7,5008,8001,30017.32,100
San Diego County
(2012-2022)
45056011024.4130
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

Annual Job Openings

In California, an average of 130 new job openings per year is expected for Opticians, Dispensing, plus an additional 210 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 350 job openings.

In San Diego County, an average of 10 new job openings per year is expected for Opticians, Dispensing, plus an additional 13 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 23 job openings.

Estimated Average Annual Job Openings
Opticians, Dispensing
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-
Projected Year)
Jobs From GrowthJobs Due to
Net Replacements
Total Annual
Job Openings
California
(2012-2022)
130210350
San Diego County
(2012-2022)
101323
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Data for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

Individuals with a high school diploma may qualify for entry-level positions. However, many employers prefer candidates with an associate degree in opticianry or at least some postsecondary education. Coursework includes optics, eye physiology, and business management. In addition, students participating in supervised clinical work gain hands-on experience working as Opticians and learning optical mathematics, optical physics, and the use of precision-measuring instruments. Some employers may prefer candidates with bilingual skills.

Experience

Most employers require one to two years of previous work experience.

Early Career Planning

High school students interested in this kind of work should take classes in business, algebra, trigonometry, physics, basic anatomy, language arts, and a foreign language. Training programs are also available through Regional Occupational Programs (ROP) for dispensing optician, optical dispenser, and optical technician. To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site.

Apprenticeship Programs

Some employers provide new hires with two or more years of on-the-job training in structured apprenticeship programs. Through this training, prospective Opticians learn how to use the tools and equipment in the office. They receive instruction on taking a customer's eye measurements and adjusting frames as well as on sales and office management practices.

Continuing Education

In California, the Registered Dispensing Optician license does not require continuing education for Spectacle Lens Dispensers and Contact Lens Dispensers to renew registration. However, if an Optician maintains current certification with the American Board of Opticianry (ABO), then they must submit 12 ABO-approved continuing education credits each year, of which 3 may be National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE) approved.

Licensing and Certification

The state of California licenses Dispensing Opticians through the Medical Board of California. Licenses may be required depending upon the type of business in which the Dispensing Optician works. This process includes completing an application, meeting the experience requirement, successfully passing an examination, and obtaining fingerprint clearance. Registration must be renewed every two years. Contact the agency that issues the license for additional information. Click on the license title below for details.

Opticians may become certified in eyeglass dispensing, contact lens dispensing, or both. Certification requires passing exams from the ABO and NCLE. The Medical Board of California uses the ABO and NCLE exams as the basis for state licensing. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

The largest industries employing Opticians, Dispensing are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Offices of Other Health Practitioners 49.6%
Health and Personal Care Stores 19.4%
Offices of Physicians 14.2%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

Finding a Job

Direct application to retail optical stores and eye clinics remains one of the most effective job search methods. Opticians may also find job leads through their opticianry school, networking with others in the field, online job boards, classified ads, and professional associations. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at www.jobcentral.com and CalJOBSSM at www.caljobs.ca.gov.

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Opticians, Dispensing.

  • Department Stores
  • Eyeglass Stores
  • Ophthalmologists
  • Optical Goods
  • Opticians
  • Optometrists

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

As Opticians gain experience and continue their education, they may take on additional responsibilities and receive increased earnings. Some Dispensing Opticians become optical store managers or sales representatives for wholesalers or manufacturers of eyeglasses or lenses. Others may open their own optical stores.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Opticians, Dispensing with links to more information.

OccupationOccupational
Guide
Industry
Report
Occupational
Profile
Dental AssistantsGuide
Medical AssistantsGuide
Ophthalmic Laboratory TechniciansProfile
Orthotists and ProsthetistsProfile
Pharmacy TechniciansGuide
Retail SalespersonsGuide

Other Sources

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SystemCode
SOC - Standard Occupational Classification29-2081
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Opticians, Dispensing29-2081.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)ECR