Eye care is a significant industry as over 75% of the adult population in the United States requires vision correction devices. American adults reportedly spend around $33.5 billion yearly on refractive eye exams, eyewear, and contact lenses. Moreover, they spend an additional $28.6 billion on medical and surgical eye care services.
As the demand for vision correction continues to rise, the role of opticians has become increasingly important in providing quality eye care. Opticians specialize in fitting and dispensing eyeglasses, contact lenses, and other visual aids to patients.
With the increasing demand for their services, many people are curious about the earning potential of opticians in the United States. Understanding optician salaries is not only important for those considering a career in the field, but also for employers who want to attract and retain talented opticians.
In this article, we will take a deep dive into optician salaries in the United States, exploring factors that influence earnings and regional differences in pay.
Who is an Optician?
Opticians are often the initial point of contact for individuals seeking vision care, serving as the face of the industry. Typically employed in vision care stores, opticians provide a wide range of customer service, including educating clients on eyewear options, assisting with selecting frames, taking accurate measurements for eyeglasses and contact lenses, and processing orders. However, some opticians may also work in a medical setting alongside optometrists who diagnose and treat visual impairments.
Despite not being trained as medical professionals, opticians play a crucial role in the vision care experience. They often spend the most time with clients, building rapport and trust and ensuring that their needs are met. They may also be responsible for troubleshooting issues related to vision care products, such as adjusting ill-fitting glasses or repairing damaged frames.
Overall, the role of an optician is multifaceted and essential to the vision care industry. While they may not have the same level of medical training as optometrists, their expertise in customer service and technical knowledge make them a critical component of the vision care team.
Pursuing a Career in Vision Care
Opticianry is an attractive career choice that can offer stable job opportunities and competitive salaries. Once an individual decides to pursue this career path, the next step is to select an opticianry school that provides the necessary training and education. With multiple campus locations available in each state, aspiring opticians have several options.
Upon completing their education, opticians can seek employment in various settings. The most common workplace for opticians is a vision care store, which can be found in shopping malls or other retail settings. Additionally, opticians may find employment in private ophthalmologist practices or optometrist offices, both of which require the services of trained opticians.
These professionals play a critical role in assisting with dispensing and fitting eyeglasses and contact lenses, providing technical assistance to clients, and ensuring that vision care products are effective and safe for use.
Education and Training Requirements for Optician School
The optician programs are usually two-year courses offered by community colleges, junior colleges, four-year colleges, technical schools, and vocational institutes in the US. Most of these programs conclude with awarding an Associate’s Degree in Ophthalmic Dispensing and last for four semesters. The program includes classroom instruction and clinical phases to ensure students are well-prepared for their future profession.
Upon completing the program, students qualify for the National Opticianry Competency Examination, which the ABO-NCLE offers. In 23 states where licensing is required, the program will also prepare students to meet those requirements. It is important to seek out an accredited program approved by the US Department of Education (USDE) or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
Apart from the two-year opticianry programs, students may also attend a post-secondary school offering an opticianry certificate program. These programs take less time to complete and prepare students to take examinations that will earn them national certifications. The certificate programs cover the same areas of study as the two-year Associate’s program, taught by experienced opticians. Students who graduate with a certificate must also satisfy the clinical education requirements, typically offered at local vision care stores or practices.
Exploring Income Potential for Opticians in the US
Optician salaries can vary depending on several factors, including location, experience, and education level. However, there is typically a fair amount of consistency among optician salaries across the industry.
Optician positions can be obtained through an apprenticeship program or a one-year optician certification from a post-secondary school. Another pathway to becoming an optician is by earning an Associate’s Degree in Ophthalmic Dispensing, which can lead to increased job opportunities and potentially higher salaries.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national average salary for dispensing opticians is $37,860 per year. However, the salaries of opticians vary by state, with Massachusetts having the highest average salary of $60,740 annually, followed by New Jersey with an average yearly salary of $53,770
Then in line is New York, with an average salary of $51,290, followed by Rhode Island ($47,560), and Alaska ($44,770). New York is the only state among the top five states with the most opticians.
By 2024, there is expected to be a 24% increase in dispensing optician jobs due to the growing elderly population in the United States, which will require more eye care. This has resulted in an ever-expanding field and raised demand for opticians.
Factors affecting the salary of the Optician
The median salary for an Optician in the United States as of March 28, 2023, is $51,880, but the actual salary range typically falls between $47,942 and $62,566, depending on several factors.
Several factors, including location and experience, influence the pay of an optometrist. Some factors can be controlled, while others take time to develop. The following factors can impact an optometrist’s salary:
- Additional skills
- Years of experience
In addition, the place of employment can also affect an optometrist’s salary. For instance, working in a public healthcare facility may pay less than working in a private medical group or private practice.
The experience level is a significant factor that impacts the typical salary of an optometrist. A new optometrist can expect to earn around $100,000 or less annually, while one with more than 20 years of experience can earn over $125,000 per year.
Average National Optometrist Salary
As of March 2023, the average annual salary for optometrists in the United States is around $130,000. However, this figure can vary depending on experience level, location, and additional qualifications. Optometrists who are just starting out can expect to earn approximately $100,000 or less per year, while those with more than two decades of experience can earn over $125,000 annually.
It’s worth noting that the salary range for optometrists falls between $113,000 to just over $141,000 per year, according to recent data. This means that some optometrists may earn more than the average, while others may earn less.
Data provided by Salary.com shows the national breakdown of optometrists’ salaries as follows:
- Bottom 10%: $99,854
- Bottom 25%: $113,182
- Median salary: $127,822
- Top 25%: $141,652
- Top 10%: $154,244
The Impact of Experience on Optometrist Salaries
The number of years an optometrist has been practicing is a significant factor in determining their salary. If you have been working for more than two decades chances are that you can earn more than 15% than those who are just starting out in the field.
Average pay by level of experience can be as follows:
|Level of Experience
|Avg. Pay Level
Entry Level (less than 1 year)
10 to 19 years
More than 20 years
Ways to Boost Your Earning Potential
To enhance your salary potential as an optometrist, you can proactively acquire additional skills and certifications instead of relying solely on years of experience. Pursuing additional courses or certifications can improve your skills and career prospects, increasing salary.
Some skills that can positively affect optometrist salaries include clinical education, customer service, geriatrics, patient education, diagnosis and treatment planning, and knowledge of multiple languages to cater to a broader range of patients.
Furthermore, location and place of employment are crucial factors that can impact an optometrist’s salary. Working in a certain city or for a specific company can offer higher earning potential than others.
Therefore, it’s essential to consider these factors when seeking opportunities for career growth and salary increase.
In conclusion, optician is a field that offers stable employment opportunities and competitive salaries for those interested in the vision care industry. Opticians play a vital role in fitting and dispensing visual aids to patients, ensuring their vision care experience is comfortable and effective. Opticianry programs are widely available, and students can qualify to take the National Opticianry Competency Examination upon completion.
While optician salaries can vary depending on location, experience, and education level, there is consistency across the industry. The national average salary for dispensing opticians is $37,860 per year, with Massachusetts having the highest average salary of $60,740 annually. With the increasing demand for vision care services, opting for a career in opticianry can provide a rewarding and promising future.
What is the typical salary of an optician?
A: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national average salary for dispensing opticians is $37,860 per year.
What is the average hourly wage for opticians?
A: The average hourly wage for opticians is around $18.20 per hour.
How does the salary of opticians compare to optometrists?
A: Optometrists earn more than opticians due to their advanced training and ability to diagnose and treat eye conditions.
Which state has the highest average salary for opticians?
A: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Massachusetts has the highest average optician salary, with an annual mean wage of $60,740.
Do opticians typically earn a salary or hourly wage?
A: Opticians can be paid hourly or salary, depending on their employer and job duties.
Can opticians earn commission on sales?
A: Depending on their employer and job duties, some opticians may receive a commission on eyewear sales and other products.
Do opticians receive benefits?
A: Many opticians receive health insurance, dental insurance, and retirement plans through their employers.
Is part-time work an option for opticians?
A: Yes, opticians can work part-time, full-time, or on a flexible schedule, depending on their employer and job duties.