Dispensing opticians make up prescriptions for spectacle lenses, which they get from the optometrists or ophthalmologist who have tested a patient’s eyes. They also fit and adjust the spectacle frames to the patient's face.
You could be:
using a computer to make up the prescription for lenses from information from the optometrists
helping a patient choose a pair of spectacle frames and advising on frames which are suitable for the lenses prescribed
measuring distances on the face, to make sure the spectacles will fit
ordering the spectacles from a prescription house and checking the delivery when it arrives
fitting the completed spectacles, adjusting them if need be, and carrying out minor repairs on spectacles
liaising with optical, retail and lab teams
after further training, fitting contact lenses and advising on their use and maintenance
arranging further visits in case alterations are needed
managing the general running of the shop or practice.
Pay rates vary, depending on:
where you work
the size of company or organisation you work for
the demand for the job.
Starting salaries for qualified dispensing opticians in private practice in the UK tend to be about £18,000 to £25,000 a year. With experience, and taking on a management role, this can rise to around £35,000.
You usually work in an optician's shop or practice, although a few dispensing opticians work in hospitals.
Hours are normally regular, but in shops weekend work is common.
You must be registered with the General Optical Council (GOC), first as a student, then as a professional, and there are two main entry routes.
You can take a degree in Ophthalmic Dispensing. Glasgow Caledonian University offer the BSc Ophthalmic Dispensing Management degree (SCQF Level 9). Entry is normally 3 Highers including a science subject. The degree is approved by the General Optical Council (GOC).
Most enter this profession as a trainee with a qualified dispensing optician, and complete a three year distance learning course with the Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO) College – entry requirements are 5 subjects at National 5 including English, Maths and a science subject. Some employers may ask for additional subjects at Higher.
Glasgow Kelvin College offers an Access to Ophthalmics course, which gives entry to a degree course or a trainee position with a qualified dispensing optician. There are no formal entry requirements however you will need to have an interest in physics or maths.
You will require a satisfactory criminal record check from Disclosure Scotland to show that you are suitable for this type of work. Contact Disclosure Scotland for details on the type you would need.
Relevant work experience is helpful.
What Does it Take?
You should be:
accurate and precise
able to deal with scientific information
prepared to pay attention to detail
able to handle fine instruments
able to get on well with people of all backgrounds and of all ages
patient and caring.
You should have:
a good eye for knowing which spectacles will suit customers
good sales and communication skills
a smart appearance.
After qualifying (through qualification and supervised work-based training) and registered with the GOC, you are required to complete Continuing Education and Training (CET).
Many dispensing opticians specialise in the fitting and supply of contact lenses.
Once you have gained registration, training is on the job, with short courses to keep you up to date.
You need to renew your registration every year.
ABDO offer post-diploma honours level courses to help qualified dispensing opticians advance their knowledge.
If you gain high marks in second or third year on your Ophthalmic Dispensing degree course you may be able to transfer to the Optometry degree course.
You might move into a senior post or into management.
You might specialise in a particular area such as work with partially sighted people.