Wisconsin is one of only 22 states that have no government organizations or agencies that establish optician training, certification, and licensing requirements. These states tend to let optical employers determine their own expectations for the opticians they hire. The lack of formal requirements in these states has led to a wide variety of experience and skill sets among opticians in unregulated states. Most employers will elect to train new opticians by having experienced opticians teach them the skills they will need.
The exact tasks that an employer deems important for an optician to learn varies depending on the size and scope of the business. Large optical companies tend to focus a lot on operational efficiency and they may only train opticians to perform a few basic tasks. Small optical companies including independent optometry offices and ophthalmology clinics tend to focus more on medical eye care and may elect to have their opticians perform a wide variety of tasks. These small operations commonly encourage opticians to pursue voluntary certification through the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) and the National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE). They may even offer to pay the fees associated with the exams and reimburse for any study materials that need to be purchased.
All opticians, regardless of where they work, should seriously consider seeking certification. There are a few benefits associated with being certified that make it an appealing investment. First, optical employers will typically pay certified opticians more money. They do this because they know that credentialed opticians require less training and support. They also understand that many customers prefer to work with opticians who have demonstrated that they meet national standards for competence. In addition, credentials can be used as a marketing advantage over competitors in an effort to attract and retain new customers. Certified opticians are an important asset to an optical business and usually receive preference in the hiring process.
Another important benefit associated with certification is the ability to transfer credentials between regulated and unregulated states. Opticians who decide to move at some point in their career will find that certification opens the door to more job opportunities. Most states allow certified opticians to be licensed through reciprocity. Opticians who have not been certified may find that they will be required to return to school, work as an apprentice, or complete the ABO and NCLE exams before they can be licensed.