Optician Apprenticeship

An apprenticeship is a type of occupational training meant to prepare individuals for a career in an industry through hands-on instruction in competencies or skill sets. This approach to education has been used for hundreds of years to help train new generations of workers in occupations such as carpentry, tailoring, baking, and others. Today, individuals wanting to work in the optician field often choose to complete an optician apprenticeship instead of a formal degree program.


The optician industry remains unregulated in approximately half of all states in the US. Because of the lack of regulations in many states, optical employers are often given the freedom to establish their own expectations for optician education, training, and certification. While employers in these states may not refer to the training process as an apprenticeship, the act of having a trained optician teach new opticians the skills they will need to be successful is a type of apprenticeship. In many cases, states that do have regulations affecting the profession will allow individuals to complete an optician apprenticeship rather than a degree program.

Degree Substitution

One of the main reasons for allowing individuals to substitute a degree with an apprenticeship is the fact that so few optician degree programs exist. In fact, there are only 21 programs that are currently accredited by the Commission on Opticianry Accreditation. These programs are located in 14 different states and typically award either a two-year degree or certificate. Attending one of these programs can be extremely inconvenient for individuals who depend on a full-time income or who have a family to raise. Those who decide that a degree is the appropriate option for them are often required to relocate for at least two years in order to obtain the credential.

Most states understand the difficulty that most opticians would face if they were required to complete a degree program and have adopted legislation that provides for an acceptable alternative that can be completed locally. In states where formal education and training is required, many optical employers welcome individuals into their optician apprenticeship programs. These arrangements are beneficial for both the apprentice and the employer because they give the apprentice the opportunity to acquire the skills they need and they allow employers to provide services at a lower cost than could be achieved by hiring a fully trained and certified optician.

General Requirements


Requirements can vary depending on state regulations and employer expectations. It is important for individuals to review the legislative requirements in their state prior to establishing an optician apprenticeship with an optical establishment. While states differ, some general requirements can be anticipated. Most formal apprenticeship regulations require state registration prior to beginning the training process in order to receive credit for the hours completed. The following are requirements that many regulated states share…

  • A completed application
  • A high school diploma, transcript, or equivalency certificate
  • Sponsor information
  • Professional history
  • Criminal background check
  • Applicant statement
  • Health history
  • Letters of reference

Some regulated states require that a specific number of hours under direct supervision be completed before licensure can be awarded. Optician apprenticeship sponsors in these states are often required to submit an outline of their training program curriculum along with a statement attesting to the fact that an apprentice has successfully demonstrated competency in specific skill sets. General areas of interest may include mechanical and geometrical optics, anatomy, physiology, neutralizing and producing ophthalmic lenses, mounting ophthalmic lenses to supporting materials, fitting and adjusting eye wear, repairing optical frames or mountings, measuring interpupillary distance and multifocal seg heights, lay out and mark up for bench, keratometry and interpretation of corneal curvatures, design of hard and soft contact lenses, neutralizing contact lenses, biomicroscopy, dispensing contact lenses, and obtaining visual acuity by use of a Snellen Chart.

Detailed requirements for an optician apprenticeship can be found on the state specific pages linked to in the sidebar and on the homepage. While there are no universal regulations, there are many topics that an aspiring optician can begin learning about in order to expand the number of career advancement opportunities available to them. The list provided above is a great way to start learning about the many skills required to become a successful optician. In addition, readers are encouraged to invest in the high quality resources described on the training resources page. These books have received excellent reviews from experienced opticians and serve as priceless resources for certification exam preparation and in ongoing clinical practice.


The road to becoming an optician can be challenging and may require a few years of education and training before independent practice can be achieved. Whether you are planning to complete a two-year degree program, an optician apprenticeship, or on-the-job training we are confident that you will find the time and energy invested both personally and financially satisfying. A career in the eye care industry is very rewarding and offers a unique opportunity to help others improve the way they see the world.

4 Responses

  1. Jerry
    Jerry April 11, 2016 at 1:53 pm | | Reply

    If you have your optician apprenticeship in Nevada are you allowed to dispense contacts and glasses even when the Doctor is not around? If you’re not able what happens to you if you get caught?

  2. Christina Johnson
    Christina Johnson December 26, 2015 at 8:24 pm | | Reply

    If I worked under a licensed optician in the state of California for five years would that count in the state of Tennessee?

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