An optician is an important member of the eye care team who can have a dramatic impact on the success or failure of an optical business. The optician frequently allocates a greater amount of time for interacting with customers than anyone else on the team. While an optician does not receive the kind of extensive training that an optometrist or ophthalmologist does, they can expect a salary that is in-line with their level of expertise and their impact on the business.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated the median annual wage of opticians to be $32,940 in May 2010. Indeed.com currently estimates the national average salary for opticians at around $33,000. The numbers referenced above reflect median wage. The bottom 10 percent of opticians earned less than $21,070 in 2010 while the top 10 percent earned more than $50,780 in 2010. As you can see, an optician salary can vary depending on a few different factors. You can also find your state specific median salaries in a table at the bottom of this page.
Business Size and Services
The first factor to consider when determining what an optician can expect to be paid is the type of establishment where the optician is employed. General merchandise stores and health care stores typically pay the most because the majority of their business is built on retail sales. An optician who is able to spend more time selling eyeglasses and less time making frame adjustments can generally expect to bring in more revenue for their employer and consequently receive a higher salary. Many of these types of employers offer generous bonus structures and incentive programs for particular products and services. Opticians who are good at focusing on selling products with high payout structures can expect to enjoy a higher optician salary.
Ophthalmology and optometry offices pay slightly less than general merchandise stores because retail sales represent a smaller portion of their revenue. Settings like these place a greater emphasis on medical eye care services and specialized frame and lens offerings. For this reason, fewer customers will be visiting the business for the sole purpose of purchasing eyeglasses. This does not mean that all optometry and ophthalmology offices offer a lower optician salary. Some of these offices are very business savvy and offer similar payout structures to general merchandise stores. Employers who have a medical component may appeal to opticians who want to use more of their specialized fitting and lens customization skills as opposed to being just a salesperson.
Education, Training, and Certification
A second big factor to account for when calculating the size of optician salary one should expect is the amount of education, training, and experience that an individual has. Employers will usually pay a higher salary to those who have a degree or an apprenticeship and who have successfully passed the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) Exam and the National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE) Exam. These credentials demonstrate competence in the industry and are viewed favorably by both employers and customers.
Opticians who have these credentials typically possess a more comprehensive understanding of current standards and practices. Optical employers also know that they can use optician credentials to market their business to customers who hold credentialed opticians in higher regard. Those seeking a higher optician salary are encouraged to voluntarily pursue the credentials outlined above.
A third factor to think about that will affect the amount that an optician is paid is the geographic region where the optician works. The number of available positions varies greatly between states and the size of the optician salary is generally affected by the cost of living in specific regions of the country. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the top five states for available optician jobs include California, Texas, Florida, Illinois, and Ohio. Opticians who want to improve their chances of getting a job should consider exploring opportunities in these states. While these states do employ more opticians than other states, they do not rank in the top five states that pay opticians the most. When it comes to the size of the optician salary, New York, Mississippi, Massachusetts, the Georgia, and California are the highest ranked. Each of these states pays opticians between $32,000 and $45,000 annually.
If you are considering specific metropolitan areas for employment, you should know which ones offer the most jobs and the highest pay. The top five metro areas with the most optician jobs include Chicago-Joliet-Naperville in Illinois, Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale in California, Dallas-Plano-Irving in Texas, New York-White Plains-Wayne in New Jersey, and Washington-Arlington-Alexandria in West Virginia/Maryland/Virginia/DC Metro. The top five highest paying metropolitan areas include Boston-Cambridge-Quincy in Massachusetts, Edison-New Brunswick in New Jersey, New Haven in Connecticut, Seattle-Bellevue-Everett in Washington State, and Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford in Connecticut.
There are many factors that can influence the optician salary. New opticians will usually make less and gradually work their way up the pay scale as they gain experience. Opticians who are looking to accelerate the pay raise process should complete formal education, training, and credentialing. Additionally, those wishing to receive a higher initial optician salary should begin their career in establishments that focus primarily on retail sales and that are located in geographic regions that offer higher salary levels.
Salary by State