Opticians are technicians trained to design, verify and fit eyeglass lenses and frames, contact lenses, and other devices to correct eyesight. They use prescriptions supplied by ophthalmologists or optometrists, but do not test vision or write prescriptions for visual correction. Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology in Boston is the only college in Massachusetts to offer degree programs in opticianry.
From my more than 30 years of experience in the industry, I can confidently say there is a tremendous demand for opticians in Massachusetts and across the nation. From working in hospitals to optical chains and independent boutiques, there have never been so many great job opportunities in the opticianry field. Approximately 95% of our opticianry graduates land a job, and most of our students work while studying, which is part of the college's learn and earn model. Between 2014 and 2024, the Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates 24 percent employment growth in the opticianry field, which translates into 17,800 new jobs.
With technological advances such as digital imaging devices, wearable technology, and innovations in contact lenses, frames, and sports protective eyewear, the demand for opticians is growing.
One reason for the rosy career outlook is that the general population is aging, which increases the demand for corrective eyewear. That’s partly why many big box department stores are opening their own optical departments. And when they do, they need a licensed optician to be on the premises during hours of operation, which certainly increases the demand. Hospitals, health centers and ophthalmology practices are also opening optical shops to meet this growing demand.
The demand is also growing because of technological advances in digital imaging devices, wearable technology, and innovations in contact lenses, frames, and sports protective eyewear. In addition, many licensed opticians are approaching retirement age, and a new generation of opticians is needed to replace them.
A former student, Elisa, visited many colleges and considered other careers before deciding to enroll in Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology's Opticianry program. In less than two years, she earned her associate degree and landed a job as a full-time optician at Parrelli Optical.
Opticians are in such high-demand that Elisa worked part-time at Pearle Vision, while she was still a full-time student. “If you study hard and get a degree, you will be able to jump in this career immediately,” Elisa said. “I’m fitting glasses and contacts, and earning a good paycheck. I’m helping people. I’m so happy I made this decision.”
Many students appreciate how the field blends the disciplines of medicine, science and fashion. You can learn all about the anatomy of the eye, diseases, and how to use microscopes. Students also learn business skills that can be applied in nearly any career path, and many students enter the program with the possibility of opening their own optical shop.
About 85% of people’s experience of the world is through their sight. Opticians have the opportunity to help all kinds of people. What a wonderful way to help people see and feel good about themselves.
BFIT students and graduates have a unique network to draw upon, thanks to the formal relationship the college has with the Opticians Association of Massachusetts (OAM). Students have the chance to do an externship or job shadow OAM members to experience what it’s like to practice in various work environments. These connections become vital during their job search because students learn invaluable professional networking and life skills.
Opticianry also involves many aspects of business management, such as sales, marketing, customer service, and inventory control. BFIT even prepares graduates for the opportunity to open their own optical shop. Through the use of simulations of real-life business scenarios, students develop the necessary skills in critical thinking that tie their optical knowledge with aspects of business management.
Students like Elisa are joining a growing number of young folks who seek an associate degree as a way to graduate with less college debt, and earn money more quickly upon graduation. With salaries around $48,000 per year or about $24 per hour, becoming a licensed optician is a career with high earning potential and the chance to make a difference in the lives of others. If you enjoy working with your hands, helping others, and seek to enter the strong health care industry, the opticianry field may be the right fit for you.