About the job

Nature of work:

Opticians fit clients with prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses, assist clients in the selection of eyeglass frames, arrange for the production of eyeglasses or contact lenses and mount lenses in eyeglass frames. They are employed in optical retail outlets or other establishments with optical dispensing departments, or they may be self-employed. Student opticians and opticians who are managers of optical retail outlets are included in this group.

Job duties:
Opticians perform some or all of the following duties:
  • Obtain specifications for eyeglasses or contact lenses from a prescription prepared by an ophthalmologist or optometrist or by analyzing the client's eyeglasses or contact lenses and by measuring client's eye curvature, pupillary distance and bridge width, using optical measuring devices.
  • Assist clients in selecting eyeglasses by advising on lens materials, frames, tints and anti-reflection coating.
  • Advise on use and care of contact lenses.
  • Arrange for grinding and polishing of lenses or grind and polish lenses.
  • Cut and edge lenses and fit lenses into frames.
  • Adjust finished eyeglasses to fit client.
  • May supervise or manage the activities of other opticians or student opticians.
Sample job titles:
  • apprentice optician
  • contact lens dispenser
  • contact lens technician
  • dispensing optician
  • eyeglasses frame fitter
  • licensed contact lens practitioner
  • licensed dispensing optician
  • licensed optician
  • managing optician
  • optician

This work demands close attention to detail and an ability to work precisely and accurately. You should enjoy working with the general public and be approachable, reassuring, and sensitive to their needs. Opticians require the ability to work alone, as well as a member of a team, in a busy retail environment.

Job requirements:
  • Completion of a two- or three-year college program in ophthalmic dispensing or optical sciences is required.
  • Licensing by a regulatory body for opticians is required in Nova Scotia.
  • Licensing requirements for scope of practice and protected titles related to dispensing and contact lens certification vary by province.
Other considerations:

People in this group usually work regular hours; however, evening and weekend shifts may be required.

Labour Market Information

Work Prospects:Fair

The employment outlook over the next few years for this occupational group is “average”, which indicates the chances of a qualified individual finding work is comparable to the average for all occupations in Nova Scotia. This is not a large occupation in Nova Scotia so job opportunities may not be that frequent. The number employed in this occupation is expected to grow moderately over the next few years, which will likely provide some additional opportunities for employment. With a large percent of workers being 55 years of age and older, retirements are expected to be a key contributor to employment opportunities over the coming years. Opticians most commonly work full-time hours.

The median employment income for 62% of Opticians who worked full-time, year-round in 2015 was $43,152. Across all occupations in Nova Scotia, 59% of those who worked full-time year round had a median employment income of $43,600.
(Source: 2016 Census)

OccupationEstimated employment in 2018Estimated change in employment between 2017 and 2019Estimated openings due to growth and retirements, 2017-2019Estimated rate of unemployment in 2018 Estimated hourly earnings in 2015 (learn more)Estimated annual earnings in 2015
Opticians245Moderate growth60Low
Minimum: $17.07
Median: $25.00
Maximum: $33.00
Minimum: $13,389
Median: $38,489
Maximum: $61,342
Occupations in Health36,515Strong growth4,385Low
Minimum: $16.38
Median: $25.50
Maximum: $41.00
Minimum: $10,740
Median: $43,853
Maximum: $88,944
OpticiansCompared to: Occupations in Health
Percent employed full-time85%77%
Percent self-employed3%10%
Where will I likely work?
Area of EmploymentOpticiansCompared to: All NS Occupations
% EmployedMedian Annual Income% EmployedMedian Annual Income
Cape Breton17%x13%$32,974
Annapolis Valley20%x13%$32,958
What are the workers like?
AgeOpticiansCompared to: All Health
% Employed% Employed
Median Age5144
GenderOpticiansCompared to: Occupations in Health
% Employed% Employed
EducationOpticiansCompared to: All Health
% EmployedMedian Annual Income% EmployedMedian Annual Income
Less than high schoolN/Ax1.1%$27,581
High school7.7%$34,6716.9%$24,119
Trades certificate15.4%$43,6745.0%$31,728
College certificate or diploma61.5%$46,76439.4%$36,693
University certificate or diploma5.8%$50,4634.8%$50,769
Bachelor's degree9.6%$39,99627.6%$57,186
University advanced certificate or diplomaN/A$41,2532.3%$61,833
Master's degreeN/A$27,1965.1%$87,808
Medicine, dentistry, veterinary, optometryN/Ax7.2%$83,000
Wage Disclaimer

Hourly earnings data are from the Labour Force Survey by Statistics Canada. Data are not available for all occupations. Hourly earnings are calculated based on usual hours worked per week. This is how an annual salary, for instance, gets converted to an hourly rate. The data include full and part-time workers along with new and experienced workers. Self-employed workers are excluded.

Annual employment income data reported in the Work Prospects section, are from the 2011 National Household Survey by Statistics Canada. Much of the data (around 70%) came directly from tax records. The data relates to the year 2010 and includes total wages and salaries and net income from self-employment.


Employment Requirements & Contacts

Right to Title and Practice:This job is regulated and the job title is protected in Nova Scotia (you may not use this job title without holding a provincial licence). A licence shows that the holder has met provincial requirements and is required to work in this job.
Regulating body:
Nova Scotia College of Dispensing Opticians
5991 Spring Garden Road, Suite 430
Halifax, NS B3H 1Y6
(902) 425-7928
(902) 425-0360
Useful contacts:
Opticians Association of Canada
2706 - 83 Garry Street
Winnipeg, MB R3C 4J9
Tel: (800) 847-3155
Fax: (204) 947-2519
Nova Scotia Society of Dispensing Opticians
PO Box 22034
Halifax, NS B3L 4T7
Tel: (902) 499-7562
Fax: (902) 443-2834
Health Care Human Resource Sector Council
380 Bedford Highway
Halifax, NS B3M 2L4
Tel: (902) 461-0871
Fax: (902) 461-9572

Training Paths & Education

Program Name:Opticianry/ophthalmic dispensing optician
Education Level:This program may be offered at the college, trades, or university level.
Program Description:
This instructional program class comprises any program that prepares individuals to adapt and fit corrective eyewear, including eyeglasses and contact lenses, as prescribed by ophthalmologists or optometrists; to assist patients in selecting appropriate frames; and to prepare work orders for ophthalmic laboratory technicians. These programs include courses in geometrical optics; ophthalmic optics; anatomy of the eye; optical instrumentation; use and maintenance of adjustment and cleaning tools; prescription interpretation; contact lens adaptation and fitting; prosthesis fitting; facial and eye measuring; pathology identification; record-keeping; and patient and business administrative tasks.
There are no schools in Nova Scotia offering this program.
Program Name:Vision science/physiological optics
Education Level:This program is typically offered at the university level.
Program Description:
This instructional program class comprises any program that focuses on the scientific study of vision, visual processes, and related phenomena and clinical research and treatment modalities. These programs include courses in ocular anatomy and physiology, microbiology of the eye, electrophysiology, neurophysiology, corneal physiology, photochemistry, psychophysics, visual biophysics and motor systems, sensory mechanisms and photoreception, eye circulation and metabolism, geometric and physical optics, ocular development across the lifespan, visual stimuli and perception, colour vision, eye motility, biometrics and measurement techniques, visual pathology, and environmental issues.
See all institutions providing this program+
Dalhousie University
Office of the Registrar
Halifax, NS B3H 4R2
(902) 494-2450
Additional resources: