By Maryann Santos, ABOM, CT Licensed Optician
Children are often asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" The most common responses are: doctor, teacher, nurse, firefighter, or policeman . As children get older they learn about different professions such as accountant, lawyer, dentist, construction worker and electrician. Unless an optician is in the family, the profession of opticianry is rarely dinner time talk. Even children who wear glasses rarely consider being an optician. Why? If you ask the average optician how they landed in the field, many will say that they fell into the career by chance or it's been in their family.
Looking to the Future
To ensure the future growth of opticianry, we must make the profession a viable career option for the youth of today. How many careers offer the diversity that ours offers? We are afforded a profession that is a blend of math and science, healthcare, fashion, hands-on repairs and fabrication, sales and management, and even small business ownership. Opticians can work days, afternoons and evenings, weekends or Monday through Friday. There are national organizations that work to promote and sustain the profession. One is the Optician’s Association of America (OAA). This national group works to get opticianry to the eyes and ears of Americans with their public service announcements (PSAs) marketing the profession. They are active in Social Media, where you can search and “like” them on Facebook. There one can find PSA announcements and other videos, including links to share on your Timeline or Page. This is just another way to get opticianry “out there.”
Building a legacy
Another avenue to increase the visibility of our profession is building relationships with colleges. There are 30 members of the National Federation of Opticianry Schools (NFOS) in the U.S. and Canada. The NFOS board is working to increase that number and to see schools open in states that have no opticianry programs. Bob Russo, President of the NFOS says, “As technology advances in the eye care profession, it is important that opticians have a thorough understanding of optics, to understand why we do things and to be able to troubleshoot optical prescriptions, in order to meet the visual expectations of our patients.”
Yet another way to advance our field is for opticians and/or state optician associations to contact local high school guidance departments and participate in their career fairs. According to the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of opticians is projected to grow 24 percent from 2014 to 2024, a much faster growth compared to the average for all occupations combined. An aging population and increasing rates of chronic disease are expected to lead to greater demand for corrective eyewear. The jobs are there. Collectively, we need to promote this exciting profession in our own way. Perhaps by mentoring a young adult or offer a career transition person a day to shadow you at your place of employment.
Reading publications like this one says that you have an interest in promoting a best kept secret, opticianry. I urge you to join your local opticianry association and get to know the OAA. Together, we can make opticianry a household word.