The vision industry is a unique branch of healthcare because it employs both medical specialists and retail professionals. The fact that eye care includes both medical and product based services means that there are a few important career advancement opportunities that must be considered before selecting the appropriate path. Individuals who decide that they want to diagnose and treat medical eye problems have the choice of either becoming an ophthalmologist or an optometrist. An ophthalmologist is required to complete medical school while an optometrist graduates from a degree program that is specifically developed for the profession. Both types of professionals spend a minimum of eight years in college and must pass a series of rigorous licensing exams before being allowed to practice. Those who would prefer to avoid many years of higher education may want to consider a career as an optician.
An optician is someone who works in the retail dispensary of an eye care establishment. These individuals specialize in helping customers select a pair of frames that suits their sense of style and taste in fashion. These days, there are hundreds of frame options available that are constructed of many different types of materials and according to varying designs. The optician is the eye wear professional who has been trained to help clients understand their frame options so that the most appropriate product can be found. In addition, an optician is responsible for collecting face measurements so that the frames fit properly on the face and allow for optimal vision. Some employers also require opticians to perform lens customizations, frame repairs, and assist with conflict resolution. Opticians who have a few years of experience may also choose to work in an administrative or educational role.
Unlike the medical branch of eye care, there are relatively few education and training requirements for opticians. In fact, only about half of the states in the US have even adopted formal regulations that affect the optician profession. States that require an optician to become licensed typically require applicants to complete either a 2-year degree or an apprenticeship followed by a state or national exam. Most regulated states have adopted the certification exam administered by the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) as their official licensing exam. The ABO is widely regarded as the standard for optician competence assessment and is recognized by nearly all regulatory bodies. There are no educational prerequisites in order to sit for the exam and opticians in both regulated and unregulated states can voluntarily schedule a test date.
Individuals who intend to work in an unregulated state may be able to find employment in the profession with little or no formal education or training. Unregulated states generally allow employers to adopt their own employment standards for new opticians. Given that there are so many different types of optical establishments, wide gaps in optician knowledge and skills often exist. This happens because employers tend to provide instruction in only those tasks that they deem relevant for their office. This can be a tremendous disservice for individuals who may wish to seek employment in a different office or who are considering moving to a regulated state. In this type of situation, the optician may need to complete additional education, training, and certification before being able to secure employment. The lack of national competency standards in the industry also creates confusion for clients who receive services in both regulated and unregulated states.
Voluntary optician certification offers many benefits to individuals who work in unregulated states. In addition to gaining the respect of peers who work in states that mandate certification, formal credentials have been shown to increase the optician salary, result in better benefits, and improve the shopping experience for customers. Many industry professionals also believe that the adoption of more uniform standards for the specialty represents an important step in establishing the legitimacy of the profession and ensuring that insurance companies continue to reimburse for the services that it provides. These companies are notorious for developing policies based on formal credentials and have been known to exclude those professions that do not have consistent regulations that establish competency standards. Readers can learn more about the optician profession by visiting http://www.opticiantraining.org/ where they will find valuable details regarding education and training requirements in all 50 states.