At Eclectic Eye, we take the education of our staff very seriously. That is why we encourage all of our Eyewear Architects to become licensed opticians. Not only does this help them better serve our customers, but also it allows them to grow professionally and hone their craft. This post discusses what it takes to become a licensed optician, as well as Randall’s journey, specifically.
What is a Licensed Dispensing Optician?
While job opportunities for licensed opticians are growing 15 percent in the US, the state of Tennessee is leading the way with a 27 percent growth rate. What is an optician, you ask? Opticians are licensed eye care professionals that work with and support optometrists and other optical providers. They help eye doctors provide above and beyond service to patients and customers. Opticians assist with filling lens prescriptions, educating patients and customers, as well as selecting a frame that you just can’t live without. Are your glasses slipping down your nose or does your new prescription make you feel a little wobbly when walking upstairs? An optician can help solve these problems.
Becoming an optician is an extremely difficult yet rewarding process, as it requires significant in-depth training. This process takes 2-3 years of hands-on training to complete. It also requires testing to verify you have the skills and knowledge needed to successfully dispense glasses and contact lenses.
There are two separate routes that one can take in order to become a licensed optician. One of the pathways is a two-year opticianry program, generally offered at community colleges. The other option is through the Tennessee Apprenticeship Training Program. This is a three-year program that requires 5,250 working hours in an optometric shop under the supervision of a licensed optician, optometrist or ophthalmologist.
During the apprenticeship process, the Tennessee Board of Dispensing Opticians requires each applicant to complete the American Board of Opticianry and National Contact Lens Examiners (ABO-NCLE) exam. Applicants are also required to take an exam administered by the National Commission of State Opticianry Regulatory Boards (NCSORB). The ABO and NCLE exams can be completed before or during your apprenticeship period. The final NCSORB practical exam is the last step to fulfilling the requirements of the license. This process requires a lot of dedication but is well worth it for anyone in the optical industry.
Once you have an optician’s license, the educational journey is not over. Opticians in Tennessee must attend eight hours of continuing education each year in order to maintain their license. While not all states require a license to be an optician, (only 20 do) we feel that having this requirement provides patients and customers with a sense of security in their care. Customers know that if their eye care provider is a licensed optician in Tennessee, their knowledge and training is extensive. This gives customers a necessary peace of mind that they’ve put your eyesight in capable hands.
At Eclectic Eye, we are fortunate to have an optician with 25 years of experience, Randall Bennett. Randall’s influence has helped develop our team, allowing us to continue the promotion of independent eyewear within our community.
Randall’s Journey to Become a Licensed Optician
Recently, someone asked Randall why he chose to become an optician. He can still remember the catalyst like it was yesterday!
The year was 1993. I was working for Goldsmith’s department store. I noticed I was squinting to see across the store because my workspace was so large. This caused frequent headaches. I decided to go to the optical store in the mall to get an eye exam. The experience was eye-opening in many ways! I remember putting on my first pair of glasses and the immediate visual improvements were phenomenal. I was overjoyed and Karen, the optician that assisted me, provided valuable expertise in selecting and fitting my new frame!
A few weeks later, I saw Karen in the food court and thanked her again for her great customer service. She then mentioned that her store had a job opening and thought I would be a perfect fit for the position. I set up an interview and was offered the job as a lab technician. There, I learned how to put together eyewear that helped other people achieve the same results I was enjoying.
Not long after this career change, Randall moved to Memphis and took a job with a large optical chain where he entered a licensed optician apprenticeship program. Roughly one year later, he passed the American Board of Opticianry exam. The next step was to take the National Contact Lens Exam. Despite his lack of familiarity with this area of the industry, he remained diligent and passed the NCLE exam on his third attempt! His journey wasn’t over yet, however. He had one more exam to take, which he completed soon after. “I still remember the overwhelming feeling of pride once my license arrived in the mail,” said Randall.
Growing Our Team of Licensed Opticians
In addition to Randall, Eclectic Eye has six other employees that have their ABOC license. Four of these staff members are part of our apprenticeship program. As you have learned, obtaining your optician license in the state of Tennessee is no easy task. We applaud our team members’ dedication to expanding their knowledge of the industry. Their hard work allows us to ensure that we are providing the best Memphis eye exams and other optical services.