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After visiting an optometrist (eye doctor), a patient will need to visit an optician, a specialist who helps people get the glasses they need. The optician might have a private shop, or might work within a larger store, where many opticians help many clients at the same time.

Opticians carry a large supply of glass frames, which they help their clients choose from. Opticians also give advice to customers on frame and lens types, depending on the client's needs and lifestyle. Once the frames have been picked out, the optician can either arrange for the production of the lenses at a laboratory, or make the lenses themselves. This means they must have a lab in the shop, and be able to use and understand the equipment.

Regardless of whether or not they complete the lenses personally, opticians must be able to read the prescriptions, ensuring the information is complete. They may have to measure the customers' eye curvature, the distance between their pupils, and the width of the bridges of their noses.

When the eyeglasses are ready, opticians must meet with their clients, making sure that the eyeglasses are correct and adjust the glasses to fit the customers' faces. If a customer does not want eyeglasses, but is interested in contact lenses, the optician will arrange for the grinding and polishing of the contact lenses, and then instruct them on how to insert, remove, and clean the contacts,

If an optician also owns and manages a retail outlet, there will be business responsibilities, such as looking after administration, finance, inventory, and sales. Anyone working in a retail business can expect weekend and evening shifts.
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  Average Earnings  
Lowest 10% of Earners:
Median Salary:
Highest 10% of Earners:

  Interests and Skills  
Opticians must have a lot of energy and stamina-- they spend a lot of time on their feet. They also work closely with the public, therefore, if you are not comfortable with people, this may not be the career choice for you. The work is steady and interesting but requires patience, tact and specialized skills. Anyone working as an optician should have a courteous, pleasant manner, good communication skills, and the manual dexterity required to manipulate small objects and instruments. Opticians who prepare lenses need to know how to take precautions against potential hazards, like harmful chemicals and glass.
It is important to be organized, with analytical and computer skills, as the job requires a lot of compiling and checking of information.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Read and interpret prescriptions written by an optometrist.
  • Measure client's eye curvature, distance between pupils, using optical measuring devices.
  • Help clients choose suitable frames, according to style, shape, and color
  • Advise on use and care of contact lenses
  • Arrange for grinding and polishing of lenses or grind and polish lenses
  • Cut and edge lenses and fit lenses into frames
  • Adjust finished eyeglasses to fit client
  • Arrange and maintain displays of optical merchandise
  • Purchase supplies
  • Perform related clerical and bookkeeping duties
  • This field combines science, business, technical, and public service. The possibility of lab work, business ownership, and the satisfaction of working with and helping clients in need are all positive aspects of the job. One's organization, sensitivity, and even sense of style can come into play!

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Opticians may work in optometrist offices, glasses stores, or other establishments with optical dispensing departments. They may also be self-employed, owning and operating small stores or large chain stores, where many opticians serve many clients at the same time.

  Long Term Career Potential  
With experience, staff opticians who work in a large shop may progress to store management positions or even start their own businesses. Those people interested in careers involving delicate, precise work can train for such occupations as artificial eye makers, ophthalmic laboratory technicians, as well as camera and watch repairers.

  Educational Paths  
People wanting to work as opticians must either complete a two- or three-year college program in ophthalmic dispensing, which includes an apprenticeship. Then must then obtain a license from their regional licensing board. If school is not an option, they may also choose work in a retail optical outlet for at least three months, and then apply to a two-year dispensing optician correspondence course.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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