2024 Best Online Optician Programs [Undergraduate Certificate]

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You might consider enrolling in an optician program if you’re interested in a career helping customers with their eyewear.

Best Online Optician Programs

Optician programs online can help you gain the skills and knowledge to run a successful eye care office. For instance, this type of undergraduate certificate program can help you develop technical, sales, and customer service skills.

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This program could also help you prepare for professional certification. There are numerous career opportunities available to licensed opticians, and demand for these professionals is on the rise.

Online Optician Programs

Woman taking Online Optician Certification

Optician programs online can provide the training necessary to prepare for your opticianry licensing exam. While optician training programs can help you develop essential knowledge and skills, you’re required to take the certification exam to pursue licensure as an optician.

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As part of your training, you’ll learn to take the data from prescriptions made by an optometrist or ophthalmologist and help patients get the best fit for their glasses or contact lenses. `Opticians also stay up-to-date on current issues and trends, use ophthalmic instruments, and understand difficulties and potential diseases that may affect patients.

Areas you may study as part of your training include:

  • Ocular anatomy
  • Lens fabrication
  • Business management
  • Refractometry
  • Eyeglass and contact lens dispensing
  • Geometric optics

Effective opticians use a variety of skills in their daily work. In addition to the necessary technical knowledge, opticians have strong manual skills and have the dexterity to work with small items. Opticianry also requires attention to detail.

Opticians need strong communication, customer service, and sales skills when working with customers. If an optician is seeking to manage or own their own business, it’s also beneficial for them to have business management and administration skills. These skill sets are helpful for managing inventory, processing insurance payments, documentation, and data management.

Graduates who complete the certification process and gain licensure have a variety of potential career paths, including working in a healthcare practitioner’s office or running their own business.

Optician Careers & Salaries

Optician Certification Careers and Salaries

There are a variety of career opportunities available for licensed opticians. Opticians may work in private clinics, healthcare practitioner offices, and retail stores that sell optical goods, like eyeglasses and prescription sunglasses.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, here are the median salaries for opticians and related career paths.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Medical Records Specialists $46,660
Opticians — General Medical and Surgical Hospitals $46,650
Opticians — General Merchandise Stores $45,840
Opticians — Medical Equipment and Supplies Manufacturing $45,520
Opticians — Offices of Physicians $44,400
Opticians — Health and Personal Care Stores $39,180
Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians $37,270
Customer Service Representatives $36,920
Opticians — Offices of Optometrists $36,810
Retail Sales Workers $29,180

There will likely always be a need for individuals with the technical training, customer service, and business skills needed to be successful opticians. Due to an aging population, combined with the emergence of vision correction technologies and eyewear options, there will be a continued need for opticians for the foreseeable future.

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Some licensed opticians work as optical managers, contact lens technicians, dispensing opticians, ophthalmic sales representatives, and optical laboratory technicians.

Optician Certification Training Curriculum & Courses

Optician fitting her customer's eyeglasses

While courses in optician training programs will vary, below are some examples of courses you may be required to take as part of your opticianry program:

  • Introduction to Opticianry: In this course, you’ll learn about the history, responsibilities, qualifications, regulations, and standards of opticians in the US.
  • Optical Fundamentals: This course teaches the basic principles, terminology, anatomy, measurements, and math needed to succeed as an optician.
  • Ophthalmic Dispensing: In this course, you’ll learn how to take measurements for frames and optimal clarity, and you’ll learn how to adjust and align frames.
  • Contact Lens Dispensing: This course focuses on the different types of contact lenses available to patients, measuring and fitting for contact lenses, and common complications and fitting problems and solutions.
  • Optical Business Management: In this course, you’ll learn the basic management, leadership, planning, and analysis skills needed to successfully run an eye care office.
  • Anatomy, Physiology, and Pathology of the Eye: This course covers fundamental physiology, drug delivery, eye disease, and ocular emergencies.
  • Optical Laboratory Theory: This course introduces you to the terminology, materials—including lenses and frames—and instruments in finishing eyewear.
  • Ethics: This course studies ethical systems as well as practical and theoretical applications of ethics in our current society.
  • Basic Technical Mathematics: In this course, you’ll focus on math fundamentals, with an emphasis on unit conversion, arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and trigonometry.
  • Introduction to Digital Literacy: This course introduces you to the basic concepts needed for professional success, including cloud and database operating systems.

Most optician certificate programs are also designed to prepare you for industry certification exams.

How to Become an Optician

Optician discussing with a client

Training and certification are the first steps toward becoming an optician. Below are some common steps in the process of becoming a licensed optician:

  • Complete optician training. Completing optician training provides you with the skills and knowledge to prepare for your licensing exam. Some employers offer on-the-job training. Prospective opticians can also complete an academic certificate or associate program.
  • Take optician certification exam. Once you complete your training, the next step is to take the optician certification exam that will allow you to become licensed in your state.
  • Apply for your optician license. Once certification requirements are met, you can apply for your optician license.
  • Keep your license current. You can maintain your license based on the licensing criteria. National licensure through the ABO-NCLE needs to be renewed every three years, whereas individual state licensure may have different requirements.

Many states use the national certification provided by the American Board of Opticianry and National Contact Lens Examiners (ABO-NCLE). Since each state has individual licensure requirements, it’s beneficial to know what the requirements are for your state. Some states require the successful completion of their own certification exams prior to licensure.

Admissions Requirements

Man preparing requirements for Optician Certification

While admissions requirements will vary based on the optician training program you choose, here are some common requirements for program entry:

  • High school diploma or GED equivalent
  • High school transcript
  • Online application and fee

Some programs may also recommend or even require the completion of certain high school courses, such as biology, algebra, and physics. A growing number of schools no longer require SAT or ACT scores. You can check with your prospective schools to discover their specific admissions requirements.

Optician Programs Accreditation

University offering Optician Certification Programs

Regional accreditation is the process that ensures an educational institution meets a predetermined standard of quality. Regional accreditation is the most widely accepted type of accreditation, and attending an accredited school could impact your qualifications for future educational or job opportunities.

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For instance, some schools only accept transfer credits or academic credentials that were earned from regionally accredited schools. You can visit the US Department of Education’s website for additional school accreditation information.

Optician Licensure and Certifications

optiticans working in a store

While licensing requirements vary from state to state, below are some common requirements for becoming a licensed optician:

  • Complete on-the-job training or an approved optician education program
  • Pass optician certification exams based on state requirements
  • Apply for licensure once certification requirements have been met
  • Renew license based on state requirements, usually every 1 to 3 years

As part of the license renewal process, many states require the completion of continuing education courses.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Optician Certification Financial Aid

As you look into optician certificate programs, you can also look into the financial assistance opportunities that may be available. Some schools may offer scholarships or financial aid to qualifying students who enroll in their programs. Scholarships may also be offered through other public and private institutions.

Federal and state governments provide student loans and grants that may be an option as well. You can visit the Federal Student Aid website to learn more about possible financial assistance opportunities.

What Can You Do with an Optician Training Diploma?

Retail sales worker at eyewear store, guiding a client

Once you complete your optician training program, you can seek certification and apply for licensure in your state. Licensed opticians may dispense prescriptions provided by an optometrist or ophthalmologist, manage eyecare centers, and assist customers with fitting contact lenses and frames.

Opticians work in a variety of industries, from healthcare settings assisting patients to business and retail environments serving customers. Careers for opticians include optical managers, contact lens technicians, dispensing opticians, ophthalmic sales representatives, and optical laboratory technicians, among others.

How Long Is an Online Optician Certification Training Program?

Woman taking online optician certification training

While the time needed to complete an optician training program online varies, the majority of programs can be completed in 6 to 12 months.

Some programs offer self-paced courses that allow you to work on your own schedule and possibly finish sooner, but they usually must be completed within a certain timeframe. In addition to online courses, some programs require hands-on clinical or laboratory experience, which you might need to factor into your overall completion time.

What’s the Difference Between an Optician vs. Optometrist?

While opticians and optometrists share some similarities, there are key distinctions in their training and services.

Optician Optometrist
  • Training and licensure varies by state
  • May complete on-the-job training or college certificate program
  • Fills vision prescriptions
  • Makes glasses
  • May fit contact lenses
  • Holds a doctorate in optometry
  • Performs annual eye exams
  • Can fit glasses and contacts
  • Treats eye conditions and monitors medically related eye conditions

While optometrists treat conditions like glaucoma, they are not medical doctors and do not perform surgeries. Ophthalmologists are medical doctors that can perform eye surgeries.

Is an Optician Certification Training Worth It?

Optician assisting his client in an eye store

Yes, an optician certification training is worth it for many students. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for opticians is expected to grow 4% over the next ten years, which is as fast as average.

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If you enjoy combining technical and customer service skills to help others, an optician training program can help you prepare for optician certification and licensure. Licensed opticians may find careers in eye care centers, healthcare practitioners’ offices, or eyewear retail stores.

Universities Offering Online Optician Certificate Programs

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

Borough of Manhattan Community College

Borough of Manhattan Community College

Borough of Manhattan Community College offers an optician certification training program. The curriculum is intended for students pursuing board certification in optometry in their state. Classes are designed to equip students with an understanding of medical terminology, calculations, vision assessment, and corrective options for optical problems. Students can attend fully online and begin anytime.

BMCC is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Community College of Philadelphia

Community College of Philadelphia

Community College of Philadelphia offers a program for optician certification training. This program may be an ideal next step for students interested in gaining their board certification to work as licensed opticians. The certificate utilizes a 100% online learning format. Most students can complete the program’s requirements in 6 months or less.

Community College of Philadelphia is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Durham Technical Community College

Durham Technical Community College

Durham Technical Community College offers an opticianry certificate program. The curriculum is designed to provide students with the knowledge required to sit for board certification. The program spans 5 semesters total. In addition to fully online coursework, students must complete practicum hours on campus or at an approved optical facility.

Durham Technical Community College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Santa Fe College

Santa Fe College

Santa Fe College offers a continuing education optician certificate training program. The curriculum is designed to prepare students for board certification and entry-level optician roles. Students can attend the program entirely online. Potential class topics include eye anatomy, optometry ethics and law, diseases of the eye, corrective options, and ocular pathology.

Santa Fe College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Georgia

University of Georgia

The University of Georgia offers online Optician Certification Training. The course is designed to provide preparation for the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) certification exam. The curriculum covers optical theory, lens technology, and practical eyewear dispensing techniques. Students are given 6 months to complete the course.

The University of Georgia is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Getting Your Optician Certification Training Online

Man pursuing Optician Certification Training Online

Completing an optician training program online can provide you with the necessary skills and training to take your optician certification exam.

Since licensing requirements vary by state, it’s helpful to understand what steps are required for licensure in your specific state once you pass your certification exam. Once you apply for and receive your license, you could begin a rewarding career path helping others as a licensed optician.

If you wish to begin your official optician training, you can start by exploring online optician certificate programs from accredited institutions to discover which ones best fit your schedule and goals.

Ready to start your journey?
Kathryn Byrne
Kathryn holds a Bachelor's degree in English Education from the University of Delaware, and an ESL certificate in Teaching English as a Second Language from Duke University. Kathryn has spent her entire career in education, with a focus on helping students of all ages ensure they have the necessary skills to maximize their educational opportunities.