States that have optician regulations will generally require that individuals successfully complete either a two-year degree program or apprenticeship and become licensed through the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) and the National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE). The fact that these opticians have been required to receive formal education means that they have the kind of comprehensive understanding of the industry that will be assessed on the certification exams. For this reason, opticians in regulated states need not be concerned with obtaining additional credentials.
States that have no optician regulations typically allow optical employers to decide which aspects of the industry they think are important for an optician to learn. Because there are so many different types of optical employers across the country, an optician may or may not receive a level of training that is equivalent to that which is required in a regulated state. Large chain stores may feel that an optician only needs to understand how to sell eyeglasses and perform minor frame adjustments; whereas, a small boutique optical store might want its opticians to have a comprehensive set of skills that includes frame and lens customizations.
Opticians who work in unregulated states should seriously consider voluntary certification because of the many benefits that it offers. First, credentialed opticians tend to have more job opportunities available to them. Employers realize that a certified optician probably has a better grasp of the tasks that they will be expected to perform and will be more productive while creating fewer mistakes. They also understand that many customers prefer to work with opticians who have demonstrated that they have met national standards for competence. This can go a long way in attracting and retaining high value customers.
Another important benefit associated with certification is the fact that optical employers tend to pay credentialed opticians a higher salary and offer them better benefits. They do this because they view a certified optician as an important asset to the business and they are willing to pay more in order to improve the financial performance of their store. Some employers also use certification as a marketing advantage over their local competitors who may not be as picky about who they hire. This shows potential customers that an optical employer values the customer's vision and has taken the necessary steps to ensure that they are receiving the absolute best care possible.
Finally, a certified optician will find it easier to become licensed in a regulated state if they decide move at some point in their career. Many states offer licensing through reciprocity to opticians who have experience and who have already been certified. Opticians who lack these credentials may find that they are required to complete additional training and successfully pass the ABO and NCLE exams before being issued a license. In addition, some regulated states have an additional licensing exam that makes it even more difficult to start working in those states.