In states that require an optician to be licensed, it is fairly common for individuals to complete either a two-year degree program or an apprenticeship. Since there are relatively few opticianry degree programs available, many opticians choose to go the route of an apprenticeship. An apprenticeship basically consists of supervised training for a specified period of time. Once the apprentice has fulfilled the required hours, they typically complete a state licensing exam.
States vary in terms of the licensing exam that they require opticians to successfully pass. Some states have their own exam while others simply require that opticians take the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) Exam and the National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE) Exam. The ABO and NCLE exams are nationally recognized as the standard form of optician competence assessment and they can provide some very positive benefits to opticians who have passed them.
In states that have no optician licensing requirements it is generally left to employers to decide whether or not they will require opticians to take the ABO and NCLE exams. In these states, some employers will expect opticians to take the exams while others will not. Regardless of employer expectations it is a good idea for opticians to voluntarily complete the exams.
The first benefit that ABO and NCLE credentialing brings is an increase in optician salary. Most employers, regardless of state requirements, prefer to hire credentialed opticians. The ability to communicate to customers that a business hires only competent opticians is much simpler if those opticians have been certified. This establishes rapport with customers and puts them at ease knowing that they are being assisted by competent professionals.
Another benefit that ABO and NCLE certification offers is the ability to transfer credentials among states. This dramatically increases the number of potential job opportunities available to an optician. Since some states require opticians to be certified, it makes things a lot easier to already have those credentials prior to moving to a regulated state. Otherwise, an optician may be forced to go back to school for two years or complete a long apprenticeship.
One final benefit of being a certified optician is the fact that the optician knows that they have met national standards for optician competence. Opticians who work in unregulated states are commonly trained to only understand what they need to know in order to complete the tasks that a specific employer has deemed important. The ability to pass the ABO and NCLE exams requires a comprehensive understanding of opticianry and is a sign that an optician truly understands the industry well.