My time in the optical field encompasses many roles: sales (frames), independent optician (optical boutique owner), lens consultant, optical trainer and speaker, but the role I’m most proud of is optician. OK, fact-checking myself, I am honored by the privilege to be the Director of Education for Jobson and Pro to Pro Director in 20/20 Magazine. And I’m grateful to be part of the 20/20 family of stellar professionals who abide by my initial inexperience in publishing with aplomb. I’ve loved and learned from them all. Nevertheless, I have a special place in my heart for our community of opticians. Understand that few of us set out to be an optician as a career. Most of us fell into it, liked it and stayed.

I applaud those who carved out a career in opticianry through self-educated/apprentice/experience path to opticianry. We tend to exalt formal education (broadly understood as an AS degree in Ophthalmic Dispensing). And while no one questions that the more curated/formal education we have under our belts, the better, consider that 74 percent of states offer no formal education for an opticianry degree. Most opticians did not live within proximity of a college with a certification/degree program in ophthalmic optics. Many of them worked retail hours, days, nights or weekends, making classroom participation difficult. More than half the states don’t require a license to practice, yet over 10,000 earned and maintained their ABO or NCLE certification in these states.

That said, I encourage being a lifelong learner, which means developing a strong background in theory and geometric optics in addition to hands-on practical skills, hopefully learned from a master. The National Academy of Opticianry Ophthalmic Career Progression Program provides curated ophthalmic optics training designed for opticians to expand their theoretical knowledge and learn geometric optics with easy online access. The OAA announced the National Optician Initiative in 2019, which established National Practical Exams that confer the designation PRO on those meeting this minimum competency requirement, ABOP and NCLEP. Having ABO and NCLE certification, especially with the new PRO designation, helps set minimum competency nationwide for licensed and non-licensed states. Continuing education allows us to learn and keeps us abreast of new technologies and fashion, merchandising trends.

In the February issue’s CE, “The State of Opticianry,” Maryann Santos, ABOM, shares the challenges and progress relative to elevating the opticianry profession. 

Deborah Kotob
Pro to Pro Director
[email protected]