Dispensing Optician Jobs

Training and Education Jobs and Salaries

Dispensing opticians hold about 66,000 jobs. About one-third of dispensing opticians work in offices of optometrists and nearly another third work in health and personal care stores, including optical goods stores. Many of these stores offer one-stop shopping. Customers may have their eyes examined, choose frames, and have glasses made on the spot. Some opticians work in optical departments of department stores or other general merchandise stores, such as warehouse clubs and superstores. About ten percent work in offices of physicians, primarily ophthalmologists, who sell glasses directly to patients and two percent are self-employed and ran their own unincorporated businesses.

Employment of dispensing opticians is expected to grow about as fast as average for all occupations through 2016, as the population ages and demand for corrective lenses increases. Good job prospects are expected, but the occupation will remain relatively small. Employment in this occupation is expected to rise nine percent over the 2006 - 2016 decade. Middle age is a time when many individuals use corrective lenses for the first time, and elderly persons generally require more vision care than others.

As the share of the population in these older age groups increases, more opticians will be needed to provide service to them. In addition, awareness is increasing of the importance of regular eye exams across all age groups. A small, but growing number of States require children as young as five to get eye exams, which is expected to increase the need for eye care services in those States.

Fashion also influences demand. Frames come in a growing variety of styles, colors, and sizes, encouraging people to buy more than one pair. Moderating the need for optician services is the increasing use of laser surgery to correct vision problems. Although the surgery remains relatively more expensive than eyewear, patients who successfully undergo this surgery may not require glasses or contact lenses for several years.

Also, new technology is allowing people with minimal training to make the measurements needed to fit glasses and may allow dispensing opticians to work faster, limiting the need for more workers. There also is proposed legislation that, if passed, may require contact lens manufacturers to make lenses available to nonoptical retail outlets, which may allow them to be sold over the Internet, reducing the need for opticians to provide contact lens services.

Job prospects for entering the profession should be good as there is a regular need to replace those who leave the occupation or retire nevertheless, the number of job openings will be limited because the occupation is small. Also, dispensing opticians are vulnerable to changes in the business cycle because eyewear purchases often can be deferred for a time. Job prospects will be best for those who have taken formal opticianry classes and those who master new technology, including new refraction systems, framing materials, and edging techniques.

Median annual earnings of dispensing opticians are about $30,500. The middle fifty percent earn between $23,500 and $39,000. The lowest ten percent earn less than $19,500, and the highest ten percent earn more than $47,500. Median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of dispensing opticians are as follows: jobs in offices of physicians pay close to $33,000, jobs in health and personal care stores pay around $32,000, offices of health practitioners pay about $29,000 and jobs in the offices of optometrists pay close to $29,500.

Benefits for opticians are generally determined by the industries in which they are employed. In general, those who work part-time or in small retail shops generally have fewer benefits than those who may work for large optical chains or department stores. Self-employed opticians must provide their own benefits. Other workers who deal with customers and perform delicate work include jewelers and precious stone and metal workers, orthotists and prosthetists, and precision instrument and equipment repairers. Ophthalmic laboratory technicians also perform many of the tasks that opticians perform. And because many opticians work in the retail industry, retail salesworkers also perform some of the same duties.