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 this can rise to around £30,000.
- 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.
Workforce Employment Status
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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 at Glasgow Caledonian University – entry is 3 Highers at BBC including a science subject plus English, Maths and Physics at National 5. The degree is followed by one year of supervised professional practice before applying for GOC professional registration.
- Glasgow Kelvin College offers an Access to Ophthalmics course, which gives entry to the BSC Ophthalmic Dispensing degree course at Glasgow Caledonian University. There are no formal entry requirements however you will need to have an interest in physics or maths.
- You can get a job 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.
- Anglia Ruskin University also offers a distance learning course in Ophthalmic Dispensing. It is open to those currently working in an optical practice, and are sponsored by their employer.
- You will require a satisfactory PVG (Protecting Vulnerable Groups) check to show that you are suitable for this type of work. Contact Disclosure Scotland for details.
- Relevant work experience is helpful.
Workforce Education Levels (UK)
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Job Outlook Scotland
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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 sense of fashion and style – for choosing and selling spectacles
- good sales and communication skills
- a smart appearance.
- After qualifying, Continuing Education and Training (CET) is a statutory requirement to retain GOC registration.
- 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.
- You could become self-employed.
- You could go into teaching dispensing optics.
The following organisations may be able to provide further information.
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