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In order to become an optician you need a high school diploma, though many opticians have a college degree, or courses toward a college degree. Some colleges and community colleges offer degree programs in becoming an optician. However, many opticians get their experience through on-the-job training or through apprenticeship programs offered by larger optician organizations. Apprenticeships typically last about two years, and enable the optician to learn about optical mathematics and physics, as well as how to use certain optical machinery. About half of all states require that opticians are licensed, which may require a written exam, an apprenticeship, completion of a formal program, or a combination of these things.
Opticians typically work in medical facilities, offices, optical stores, or in department stores. Opticians must be somewhat physically fit because they spend a good portion of their time on their feet. In addition, they are exposed to hazards associated with glass cutting and lens-making on a regular basis. Most dispensing opticians work during the 40-hour workweek, though those who work in malls or department stores may work evening and weekend hours.
In addition to having experience and skills, opticians must possess great attention to detail and manual dexterity. Because they are working with the public, opticians must be pleasant, and have good communication skills and a professional appearance.
The job outlook for opticians keeps pace with the need for corrective lenses. While laser surgery has decreased the need for corrective lenses, an aging population, as well as increased interest in contact lenses, means that there will be plenty of opportunities for opticians.
To learn about the certification exams for dispensing opticians and contact lens technicians, visit the American Board of Opticianry / National Contact Lens Examiners website.
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