American opticians can earn certification by taking the National Board exams given twice a year (in the months of November and May) by the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) and the National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE.) These exams require a commitment of time and effort to prepare for, involve a significant fee, and are largely voluntary. Many states do not absolutely require that employees be certified to work in the field of opticianry.
So why do it? Why work so hard to study and pass your optical Boards?
Although thousands of non-certified personnel are employed all over the optical world, almost all industry leaders agree that only those with the coveted ABO and NCLE certification can actually call themselves opticians. Certification is the vital credential that raises you from the status of “worker” to that of “professional” and makes your title of optician really carry some weight. Workers without that certification are just “frame stylists,” “lab technicians,” “office staff,” or “apprentice/trainees”– regardless of what optical tasks they are actually employed to do.
There are countless office workers (of various titles) who are doing the work of opticians. They are interpreting prescriptions, selling optical products, taking patient measurements, fabricating and verifying jobs, fitting and adjusting eyeglasses, and dispensing optical products. Many are doing these things quite skillfully, but they are NOT opticians (and they are not getting the pay that opticians would). They have no certification, no credentials. At the end of the day, no matter what skills they have acquired or how proficient they are, they are still only office workers practicing under another person’s certification or license, not opticians. But… does it matter?
Yes, it certainly does!
Certification means recognition for the skills you have obtained, and not just recognition within your present job. The doctor or optician you currently work for may allow you to practice under his/her license or certification (depending upon the unique laws of your state) but another employer may not recognize your hard learned skills. You have to have something concrete to prove your experience and expertise. Certification makes you valuable and opens up doors for further employment.
Your certification is your key to advancement!
Employers recognize certification as a standard for competence and base their hiring and pay scale accordingly. A recent survey of responding employers noted:
- 28% required employees to be certified
- 75% gave preference to certification when hiring
- 75% rewarded higher starting salaries to certified personnel
- 40% gave promotion preference to those with ABO and NCLE certification
- Certified employees earned approximately $6,000 more per year than non-certified staff after 10 years of dispensing.
Certification brings the tangible rewards of greater job opportunities, higher earning power, and increased upward mobility. Getting that certification can get you a better job, more money, and much brighter prospects for the future.
And these benefits follow you wherever you go! You have job mobility. ABO and NCLE certifications are NOT state licenses. They are National Standards. These certifications are recognized in every state and even in many foreign countries. If you live in a non-licensed state your National Certifications are your ONLY credentials, your only proof of professional distinction. In states that require a license in opticianry, ABO and/or NCLE certification is almost always the way to get it.
- 90% of state licensing boards use the ABO and NCLE as the basis for state licensing.
- 23% of licensed states require move-in applicants to have current ABO/NCLE certification.
So, if you don’t currently have your ABO and/or NCLE certification, it makes a lot of sense to pursue and get it. Getting it will make all the difference between having a job and having a CAREER.
After all, a job only gives you money, while a career can get you so much more. Having a career provides you with identity and recognition. It can lead to even greater job prospects and better future pay. Considering all that, there is no reason why you shouldn’t get certified!
The way we see it, you just can’t lose!