What is an Optician

Optician (also known as Dispensing Optician, Licensed Optician, Certified Optician, Licensed Optical Dispenser, Licensed Dispensing Optician, Optical Dispenser, Contact Lens Fitter, and Eyeglass Fitter) is a regulated professional trained to measure, design, fit, and dispense frames, contact lenses, low vision aids, and prosthetic ocular devices to aid in vision correction.

Opticians tend to work in eye care centers, optical laboratories, and in stores that dispense eyeglasses and contacts. Opticians will use prescriptions provided by optometrists or ophthalmologists to prepare and help fit a patient’s eyeglasses and contact lenses. They will also aid the customer in deciding which eyeglasses frames to purchase, or with any specific requests regarding personalized contact lenses. Opticians will also occasionally aid an optometrist or ophthalmologist by taking measurements of the width and thickness of the corneas. To find out more on how to become a optician, please visit our optician job description page.

Work Environment

Optician work environments can vary, depending on the industry they work in. Many will work in stores that specifically sell eyeglasses and other visual aids. While this will be a retail setting, the clientele will tend to be those specifically seeking the services offered, making the work environment quite pleasant. Other opticians may work in a department store or other large retail establishment; if one is not inclined to enjoy working with the general public, this environment can be quite tedious.

Opticians can also find work in a group optometry clinic or other medical practice; this environment will be more tailored to those with a passion for the career, as it will offer a greater focus on the specific requirements of the job.

Work Schedule

Most opticians will work a standard 40-hour week. There is some variance in this, with occasional need to work longer hours, or the possibility of working part-time, should one so desire. Because the nature of the position is often retail, this 40-hour week may involve evenings and weekends, rather than holding specifically to standard business hours.

Mean Annual Optician Salary

The average annual optician salary is $35,010. The mean salary is calculated by adding all the wages within the occupation and divid that value by the total number of employees. The lowest 10% of  optician salaries are less than $21,030. The top 10% of optician salaries reach more than $52,740.

Optician Salary: Quick Summary

2012 Median Salary$35,010 per year
$16.83 per hour
Top 10% Salary$52,740 per year
$25.35 per hour
Bottom 10% Salary$21,030 per year
$10.11 per hour
Number of Jobs, 201264,930

Optician Job Outlook and Prospects

There are currently approximately 64,930 working opticians in the United States, and this number is expected to grow by 23 percent between 2012 and 2022. As the average growth for all occupations is closer to 10 percent, the job outlook and prospects are exceptionally promising. This faster-than-average growth is due in part to an aging population, and in part to greater availability to overall health care provided by recent changes in federal health insurance legislation.

Optician Salary: Factors of Influence

Optician salary is fairly firmly rooted around the national mean of $35,010. While this rooting can be useful for predicting a likely salary, there is some variation caused by factors such as experience, licensing, the industry worked, and, perhaps most significantly, geographic location.

Experience and industry are two factors that affect many positions, however licensing is much less common; not every state requires opticians to be licensed, and as such, those that are so licensed in states that do not require it can often earn more than those who are not.

Education and Specialization 

Many opticians require only a high school diploma (or equivalent) as well as some relevant on-the-job training. An associate’s degree or certificate from a community college can improve upon this, and lead to some minor improvements in optician salary.

As previously mentioned, some opticians can be trained in areas that will aid the optometrist or ophthalmologist, with such skills as taking eye measurements. Those who have these further skills can expect to see wage increases, as their value will aid both the primary care giver, and the practice as a whole, allowing a greater number of patients to be seen.

Experience and Position 

Experience, of course, is one of the most ubiquitous areas of salary improvement, and optician salary is no exception. Greater experience will make an optician more valuable to the store or practice, and will thus improve their salary.

In conjunction with experience, position is a means of salary improvement; greater experience will make an optician more likely to be selected as a head of a department (in a larger retail setting) or business manager (in a smaller optometry clinic). 


Optician salary does tend to hover around the $35,000 range, however industry can offer differences of up to $7,000. Those working in department stores, for example, can expect a paltry average of $28,480. On the other hand, those working in outpatient care centers should expect the highest industry average, at $42,780. Most other industries remain within $3,000 of the overall average, with the area of highest employment (the offices of other health practitioners, employing 26,100 opticians nationally) offering salaries of $33,250.


Location is the best factor for seeking optician salary improvements, with mean wages between $26,040 in West Viriginia and $51,300 in New Jersey, which offers the highest average salary in the country. Looking at metropolitan areas offers even greater potential, with Trenton-Ewing and Edison-New Brunswick, NJ, offering around the $55,000 mark, and the highest paying metropolitan area of Worcester, MA/CT showing an average of $60,300.

Optician Salary: Top 5

Top Paying Metropolitan AreasTop Paying StatesTop Paying industriesStates with Highest Employment Level
Worcester, MA-CT: $60,300New Jersey: $51,300Outpatient Care Centers: $42,780California: (7,110 jobs) $37,120
Trenton, NJ: $55,370Rhode Island: $50,870General Medical and Surgical Hospitals: $40,380Texas: (5,380 jobs) $30,720
Edison-New Brunswick, NJ: $54,640District of Columbia: $49,160Medical Equipment and Supplies Manufacturing: $39,270Florida: (4,170 jobs) $36,900
Nassau-Suffolk, NY: $51,410Massachusetts: $46,890Specialty Hospitals: $39,050Illinois: (3,490 jobs) $32,640
New Haven, CT: $50,840New York: $46,780Colleges, Universities and Professional Schools: $38,660Ohio: (2,930 jobs) $33,580

Optician Salary State By State