Minnesota is one of only 22 states that have no official optician education, training, or certification requirements. There is no government office that licenses opticians or verifies optician credentials. Unregulated states, like Minnesota, typically allow employers to set their own optician hiring expectations. Most employers in these states will arrange to have new opticians trained by experienced opticians in the same office. While this is usually the most efficient approach, it can lead to gaps in an optician’s understanding of the industry.
Some optical employers actively encourage new opticians to voluntarily complete the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) and National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE) Exams. These employers may even pay the fees associated with the exams. Other employers choose to have their opticians trained to perform only those skills that they deem necessary for retail sales and basic frame repairs. For this reason, it is common to find a wide variety of optician training and experience in unregulated states. Opticians are encouraged to become certified regardless of employer expectations. This ensures that an optician acquires the necessary skills to work in a wide variety of offices.
There are a few important benefits that certified opticians enjoy. First, optical employers generally pay certified opticians more. This is because employers understand that credentialed opticians are an asset to the business. Customers usually prefer to be helped by opticians who can demonstrate that they have met national standards for competence. Employers in unregulated states can also use optician certification as a marketing advantage over their competitors. This can have a dramatic impact on an employer’s ability to attract and retain customers.
Another benefit of being certified is the ability to transfer credentials between states. Regulated states usually provide licensing through reciprocity. Opticians who have prior certification can usually become licensed through reciprocity; whereas, opticians who have not been certified may need to return to school, work as an apprentice, or complete the ABO and NCLE exams before they can be licensed. This process can be extremely frustrating for someone who has worked in the industry for many years.
State Contact Information:
State Association: Minnesota Association of Opticians