How to Become an Optician in California

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The demand for opticians in California is quite high, and if you ever considered a health-related career, this one could be the one!

Read this guide to learn what it takes to become an optician in California, as well as the possible salary you could have!

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Get information on Optician Certification Training programs by entering your zip code and request enrollment information.

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Optician Job Description and Duties in California

Most people need eyewear to correct their vision and an optician is there to help them choose the best device based on needs and preferences.

These are the tasks most commonly completed by opticians:

  • Reading and interpretation of prescriptions
  • Preparing eyewear
  • Fitting and adjusting eyewear
  • Educating customers about eyewear issues and maintenance
  • Keeping sales records
  • Determining insurance co-pays
  • Keeping the inventory
  • Interacting with the labs that make lenses

Contrary to what some might think opticians cannot inspect the eyes nor prescribe corrective eyewear.

Optician Job Requirements in California

California is one of the states where rules and regulations govern opticians.

They may start working as apprentices or may choose to enroll in a formal educational program.

However, they do need to pass some exams and become licensed in order to work on their own.

Candidates need to obtain licenses from:

  • The American Board of Opticians (ABO)
  • The Board of Optometry in California
  • The National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE) – optional

An optician in California may also be asked for:

  • A high school diploma or GED
  • Being at least 21 years old
  • Good interpersonal skills
  • A clean criminal record, both at the state and federal levels

Optician Education in California

A future optician in California needs to have good knowledge of math and physics, therefore a degree from an accredited program is important.

These programs can last between 27 and 50 weeks, sometimes more, and the schools below all have good programs to consider.

Top 10 Schools in California

School NameAddress
American Career College4021 Rosewood Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90004
American Career College1200 N. Magnolia Ave., Anaheim, California 92801-0000
American Career College3130 East Sedona Court, Ontario, California 91764
American Career College236 East 3rd Street, Long Beach, California 90802-3174
Charles A Jones Career and Education Center5451 Lemon Hill Ave, Sacramento, CA 95824
Hacienda La Puente Adult Education14101 E. Nelson Ave, La Puente, California 91746-0002
Marshall B Ketchum University2575 Yorba Linda Blvd, Fullerton, California 92831-1699
National Career Education11080 White Rock Rd., Suite 100, Rancho Cordova, California 95670
University of California200 California Hall, Berkeley, California 94720
Western University of Health Sciences 309 E 2nd St, Pomona, California 91766-1854

For instance, a shorter program of 27 weeks is offered by the Charles A Jones Career and Education Center where graduates receive a certificate of completion.

At the American Career College, the programs are longer, of 2 years and the graduates also obtain a certificate.

The University of California in Berkeley has several programs to choose from, offering either certifications or degrees, up to a doctorate diploma.

Of course, not everyone can attend these programs in person and they have the option to choose an online program as long as the Board’s training criteria are met.

Each school has different prerequisites for enrollment and the most common of them are:

  • A high school diploma or GED
  • Completing specific classes with a minimum grade of C
  • 2 letters of recommendation
  • OAT scores – not older than 5 years
  • Minimum GPA of 2.75

Below is a brief list of subjects you’ll learn in-depth about:

  • Introduction to Optometry
  • Ocular Anatomy
  • Systems 1: Neuroscience
  • Ocular Microbiology
  • Ophthalmic Imaging
  • Public Health Optometry
  • Glaucoma
  • Physics

Optician Certification in California

If you want to work as an optician in California, you have to make sure you get licensed by:

  • The Medical Board of California
  • The American Board of Optometry

This means you’ll have to pass some exams first:

  • The National Opticianry Competency Examination (NOCE) offered by ABO
  • The Contact Lens Registry Examination (CLRE) offered by the National Contact Lens Examiners.

The NOCE is meant only for spectacles, it lasts for 2 hours, and it can be taken in English or Spanish.

The CLRE is for individuals who need to work with contact lenses, and this exam is also available in English or Spanish.

There are 3 levels of expertise for both exams:

  • Beginner
  • Intermediate
  • Advanced

Each test costs around $200, employers can cover this fee usually.

The minimum passing score is 70%.

NOCE usually covers these topics:

  • Reading prescriptions,
  • Fitting and dispensing spectacles
  • Using standard ophthalmic equipment

The topics for the CLRE are:

  • Pre-fitting for lenses,
  • Diagnostic fitting,
  • Dispensing of lenses,
  • Patient education,
  • Delivery
  • Follow-up

When signing up for the license, you’ll need these papers:

  • Proof of identity
  • A high school diploma or GED
  • An application
  • Proof you paid the fee
  • A clean criminal record
  • Exams scores

The California Association of Dispensing Opticians issues these licenses:

  • Registered Dispensing Optician (for the place of business)
  • ┬áRegistered Spectacle Lens Designers
  • ┬áRegistered Contact Lens Designers
  • ┬áNon-resident Contact Lens Sellers

Your license will need regular renewal, at least every year.

Optician Employment and Salary in California

It’s good to know ahead of time the places where you could work as an optician in California.

These are the main facilities needing licensed professionals in this field:

  • Stores
  • Offices
  • Optometry practices
  • Hospitals
  • Clinics

In California salaries are higher than in most other states, however, the cost of living there is also higher.

Experience, location, and the number of certifications will definitely affect how much you’ll earn in this state.

The average salaries in the most important cities in California can be seen below.

Annual Salary Range:

Average Salary of Opticians in California

City NameSalary
Los Angeles$54,321
San Diego$51,832
San Jose$60,277
San Francisco$60,037
Long Beach$53,553
* Salary information last updated 2024

Regional Salary in California

RegionEmployedAvg. Annual SalaryAvg. Hourly PayTop 10% Annual SalaryBottom 10% Annual Salary
Bakersfield, CA170$47,520$22.84$63,510$36,400
Chico, CA70$52,380$25.18$81,750$36,420
Fresno, CA200$48,000$23.08$63,170$35,320
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA3,150$54,450$26.18$79,310$37,210
Merced, CA30$48,800$23.46$62,390$36,230
Modesto, CA130$50,660$24.35$64,440$35,480
Napa, CA30$53,770$25.85$66,270$36,630
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA180$51,860$24.93$70,620$35,370
Redding, CA50$43,510$20.92$56,580$31,920
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA870$53,950$25.94$76,480$36,410
Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CA670$53,960$25.94$75,650$36,370
Salinas, CA70$52,200$25.1$62,390$35,950
San Diego-Carlsbad, CA630$56,940$27.38$75,520$35,710
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA1,100$58,870$28.3$81,860$37,020
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA510$58,450$28.1$74,780$40,050
San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA70$51,570$24.79$71,060$34,070
Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA50$50,920$24.48$65,420$37,100
Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA90$59,650$28.68$78,800$33,310
Santa Rosa, CA120$57,290$27.54$73,080$37,160
Stockton-Lodi, CA170$49,650$23.87$63,130$35,910
Vallejo-Fairfield, CA90$60,380$29.03$77,140$36,470
Visalia-Porterville, CA50$44,900$21.59$62,470$30,030
Yuba City, CA30$48,810$23.47$75,680$33,280
* Salary information based on the May 2022 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Opticians, Dispensing, OCC Code 29-2081, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Additional Information for Opticians in California

The field related to eye health is ever-changing and having good resources to keep you informed is vital.

Opticians in California can use these resources:

  • American Board of Opticianry & National Contact Lens Examiners (ABO-NCLE)
  • American Optometric Association
  • Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry
  • Commission on Opticianry Accreditation
  • National Optometric Association
  • Medical Board of California
  • California Board of Optometry
  • California Association of Dispensing Opticians
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