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CCRI's Opticianry program combines online learning, firsthand experience
April 15, 2013
If you have ever been fitted for eyeglasses, you have probably met a licensed optician. These professionals work in eyeglass shops or the offices of eye doctors such as optometrists and ophthalmologists, filling prescriptions for corrective lenses and fitting them to patients.
Other opticians work in labs building lenses or even could be involved in designing eyeglass frames.
This career has excellent job growth prospects, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. The 2011 R.I. Department of Labor and Training Occupational Wage Report says an entry-level salary for dispensing opticians is about $20 per hour, leading to a yearly salary of about $40,000 for a full-time employee.
The Community College of Rhode Island Opticianry program can help you break into this growing field. Students in this two-year program take much of their coursework online, granting them the freedom to complete their assignments on their own schedule.
“I know that a lot of students come into the program already working a full-time job, or close to full time, so the distance learning [online] piece gives them the flexibility to do the lecture portion when they want,” said Kimberly Crealey Rouillier, chairwoman of the Rehabilitative Health Department, which includes the Opticianry program. “We try to accommodate their needs as much as possible.”
Students in the program also complete six clinical sessions of 90 hours each in which they intern at opticianry offices in the area. Students learn firsthand what an optician’s job is like and also gain experience with the machinery that makes eyeglass lenses.
Rouillier said every effort is made to assign students a clinical experience near where they live.
Dororthy Silva graduated from CCRI’s program in 2011 and now works as an optician at the office of Dr. Joseph Boivin in Tiverton, R.I.
Silva said one of the things she likes most about the profession is that “it includes fashion and the medical field all in one.”
Not only does Silva check the eyeglass prescriptions of her patients and measure their eyes, she helps them choose a frame that flatters them. By now she knows which glasses look good on which types of faces and usually finds a pair that her patient loves on her first or second try.
“The job that I do is very customer service-oriented,” Silva said, adding, “I think it’s a great career if you’re a people person.”
Before this, Silva worked for 20 years as a graphic designer. She left to give birth to and care for her son, now age 9, and felt that she had fallen behind in her technology-driven career. She enrolled at CCRI part time in 2007 to eventually enter the medical field.
“I figured health care is a good field to be in because it’s always needed,” Silva said. “You have to remember, glasses are a medical device.”
Silva was interested in being an X-ray technician at first until she heard about CCRI’s new Opticianry program and thought she would enjoy it. She was accepted into the program and started taking courses full time.
After graduating, Silva turned down a few jobs because she was looking for one that would give her hours that didn’t interfere with raising her son, which meant not working in the evening.
Today she works four full-time days per week and two Saturdays per month.
“This works out perfectly because I can get my son on the school bus and then come to work,” she said.
“If you like working with people and helping them then this is a good job and an exciting, rewarding career.”
Graduates of the CCRI Opticianry program earn an Associate in Applied Science degree, which includes general education requirements with an emphasis on math. Interested students can start working on these courses now before starting opticianry classes this fall.
You can learn more about the CCRI Opticianry program online.