Pennsylvania is one of twenty-two states that has no organization or agency that sets optician training, certification, and license requirements. Unregulated states, like Pennsylvania, typically allow optical employers to establish their own standards for the opticians they hire. Employers, in these states, will arrange to have new opticians trained by experienced opticians in the same office. Since there are a wide range of businesses that hire opticians, it is not unusual to encounter a broad spectrum of experience and skills among opticians.
Some employers focus a lot on office efficiency and they only require opticians to perform retail sales, customer support, and eyeglass fitting. In these offices, opticians may find that they are only taught the skills necessary to succeed in that one office. Smaller employers oftentimes require opticians to perform many tasks and they actively encourage opticians to expand their understanding of the industry and voluntarily seek certification through the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) and the National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE). They may even offer to reimburse opticians for exam fees and study materials.
There are some very important benefits that come with optician certification. First, optical employers will generally pay higher optician salaries to individuals who have been certified. They do this because they do not have to invest as much money in optician training and support. Optical employers also know that many customers prefer to be helped by opticians who have met national standards for competence. Credentials are an asset to an optical business and they can often be used as a marketing advantage over competitors.
Another important benefit associated with certification is the ability to transfer optician credentials between regulated and unregulated states. Most regulated states require that opticians complete the ABO and NCLE exams prior to licensure. Opticians from unregulated states who have been certified may be able to be licensed through reciprocity; whereas, opticians who have not been certified may need to complete further training and take the ABO and NCLE exams before they can be licensed.