- Explore this Career
- Plans of Study
- Course Descriptions
- Frequently Asked Questions
- How to Apply
- Contact Information
What is a dispensing optician?
Opticians receive lens prescriptions from eye doctors, determine the size and style of eyeglasses desired by the customer, make lenses and cut them to fit into an eyeglass frame, and adjust finished glasses to fit the customer. Opticians may also in some circumstances fit contact lenses to the customer. Opticians are licensed in 21 states, including North Carolina.
How do I become licensed?
The North Carolina State Board of Opticians regulations state that in order to become eligible to take the examination for Dispensing Optician in the State of North Carolina, the applicant must be a high school graduate or the equivalent, and
- Successfully complete a two-year educational program in opticianry or ophthalmic dispensing at a program accredited by the Commission on Opticianry Accreditation; or
- Complete a three and one-half year apprenticeship while registered with the Board under the direct supervision of a licensed Dispensing Optician, an Optometrist, or an Ophthalmologist, and meeting the requirements of the Board.
As part of the apprenticeship experience, the apprentice must complete
one of the following:
- A certificate program offered by an accredited Opticianry program, or
- The Career Progression Program offered by the National Academy of Opticianry (NAO), or
- An educational program offered by an optical place of business and approved by the North Carolina State Board of Opticians (currently no program of this nature is approved).
At the completion of the two-year educational program or the three and one-half year apprenticeship, the applicant must:
- Successfully sit for the state board examination; and
- Complete a six-month internship while registered with the Board under the direct supervision of a licensed dispensing optician, an optometrist, or an ophthalmologist, and meeting the requirements of the Board.
The full text of the regulations can be obtained by contacting:
Sue Kornegay, Administrative Director
N.C. State Board of Opticians, Medical Society Building
P.O. Box 25336
Raleigh, N.C. 27611-5336
More information about the state board examination can be found at the NC State Board of Opticians website.
What are the earnings for opticians?
Earnings vary with the skill and experience of the optician and in different parts of the United States. Current salaries for licensed opticians in the Triangle area start between $35,000 and $45,000 a year. Opticians who are employees in a business usually have fringe benefits such as paid vacations, health and life insurance, and possibly pension plans. Those who operate their own business make their own arrangements for such benefits.
What are the working hours for opticians?
In retail outlets, opticians may work five or six days a week. Those in retail businesses in large shopping often work evenings and Saturdays but may have other time and days off. Most work 40-hour weeks. Opticians with their own business often work longer hours.
What are the working conditions for dispensing opticians?
Dispensing opticians work indoors in pleasant surroundings. They may have a small office, a waiting room for clients, a reception desk, and two or three fitting tables or booths. If they fit contact lenses, they have a well-equipped booth or work space. Opticians deal with clients much of the time. If they prepare lenses, they must observe precautions against dangers associated with glass cutting, chemicals, and machinery.
How does a career as an optician rank among other professions?
Opticianry was in the best one-third on a list of 250 professions ranked according to income, stress, physical demands, potential growth, job security, and work environment.
What type of education and training are required for a career as an optician?
Some opticians learn their skills on the job. This process takes a minimum of 3.5 years. In an apprenticeship, trainees under the supervision of opticians, optometrists, or ophthalmologists learn optical mathematics and optical physics along with the use of precision measuring instruments and laboratory equipment. They may fit patients with glasses and contact lenses. Trainees also learn sales techniques and office management.
Approximately 40 programs in opticianry training are available in community colleges and universities across the nation. Durham Technical Community College offers the only Opticianry program in North Carolina's community colleges and is one of 35 programs in the nation accredited by the Commission on Opticianry Accreditation.
Is earning a degree worth the time and effort for employment in this career field?
According to information gathered by national organizations, licensed Opticians who have 2-year degrees make an average of $7,000 per year more than licensed Opticians who did an apprenticeship. (Source, NFOS. See that link for more information about the advantages of formal education for Opticians.)
2-year degree graduates have a better than 90% pass rate on the ABO and NCLE examinations. (Same source.)
The table below shows that during the period from 1995-2000, Durham Tech Opticianry degree program graduates pass the N.C. Board licensing exam significantly faster than non-graduates:
|Durham Tech's Opticianry Degree Program||Opticianry Apprenticeships in North Carolina|
|Eligible to take exam||2 years||3.5 years|
|Pass exam first time||41%||7%|
|Pass exam second time||49%||24%|
|Licensed Opticians||90% in 3.5 years||31% in 4.5 years|
|Start in September||Apprenticeship||Durham Tech Degree Graduate*|
|Sept. 2 years later||working apprentice||41% licensed**|
|March 2.5 years||working apprentice||70% licensed|
|Sept. 3 years later||working apprentice||85% licensed|
|March 3.5 years later||7% licensed**||92% licensed|
* Full time student. Full time students spend about 40 hours/week
on classes and studying. It is almost impossible to go to school full
time and work full time, unless you have no life and do nothing else.
** After 6 months Internship
What personal qualifications are needed to become an optician?
Dispensing opticians must be able to work to precise standards. Patience and accuracy are valuable. Since they deal with the public, opticians should be tactful, have a pleasant personality, and have good communications skills.
If you have further questions or need more information:
Admissions to Opticianry degree or certificate program — 919-536-7202
Financial Aid — 919-536-7209
Veterans benefits — 919-536-7209
Disability Services — 919-536-7208
N.C. State Board Apprenticeship program and Licensing exam (Note: application for the Durham Tech Apprentice Certificate is not the same as enrollment in the NC Apprenticeship program.) — Sue Kornegay, 919-733-9321
Credit for non-Opticianry courses — 919-536-7202
Opticianry courses, either online or in the classroom — Mike Szczerbiak, 919-536-7233, ext. 8134 or firstname.lastname@example.org