The Scoop on Dispensing Opticians

Dispensing Opticians work to help people look good and see well too.

Dispensing opticians play a vital role in the eye care industry, because most Optometrists and Ophthalmologists do not dispense eyeglasses themselves, and they need someone who can help fit patients with the right lenses and frames. Though the profession will grow steadily, it will not explode as in other fields because additional options to correct vision are becoming popular.

What in the World Does a Dispensing Optician Do?

Dispensing opticians take patients who come to them with a prescription for glasses or contact lenses and produce the proper lenses or glasses for that patient. This can take many forms because the patient's eyes need to be measured and the appropriate type of frame needs to be selected for the patient's face and occupation. You may also encounter patients who do not have prescriptions. By taking measurements of the old glasses and the patient, you would be able to replicate the patient's glasses without having to send them back to the Optometrist to Ophthalmologist.

In addition to dealing with glasses and contact lenses, you might have to deal with fittings of glass eyes, other kinds of artificial eyes, or shells to cover damaged eyes. This kind of specialization requires further training, but tends to broaden the client and referral base.

What Kind of Training do I need (A.K.A. - Will I have to go to School?)

You can train for a job as an Optician in a variety of ways. You can go to a college and get an Associate's or Bachelor's Degree. These programs take 2-4 years, but you can also go to an employer and apprentice as an Optician.

After your training is completed, you will need to get licensed to practice as an Optician. Not every state requires a license, so you'll need to check with the State Medical Board to see what the rules are in your state. If you are working on getting your license, you will have to pass a written and "skills" exam before you can be awarded a license. Some Opticians may want to get licensed by the ABO (American Board of Opticianry) or the NCLE (National Contact Lens Examiners.) These certifications are not required by law but they make you much more attractive to potential employers and customers.

How Do I get One of These Jobs Anyways?

Most opticians work in retail stores or in Optometrist's offices. The majority of these jobs open with increased demand in certain locations, so some Opticians might need to work in more than one retail location as their employer tries to staff different locations.

In Doctor's offices, an Optician has a steady stream of clients coming in the door from appointments with the Optometrist or eye surgeon. This helps with building your client and referral base.

Some Opticians work in their own independent stores or own a franchise store. This is a perfect opportunity to build your own business, maybe a family business, since you will probably need at least one office staffer who can help with billing, appointments, and clerical work.

Advancement in the field usually requires a promotion to management in a retail store or becoming a District or Regional Manager of a Retail Chain or perhaps expanding to owning more than one store. Either way, you don't have to spend your whole life fitting Granny Collins with her reading glasses or Junior Collins with his suave shades.

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Opticians, Dispensing Overview

Opticians, Dispensing Salary:$32,810
Job Prospects:B
Education after high school:2 years
# Employed in US:59,470
% Who work Part Time:33%
Physical Difficulty:+ +
Intellectual Difficulty:+
Emotional Difficulty:+

The Pros of being a Dispensing Optician

  • You can train on the job or go to school
  • You can own your own business
  • You can work for a Doctor's office and get a steady stream of clients (without having to recruit)

The Cons of being a Dispensing Optician

  • Working at a retail store may not be for you
  • This job requires so fashion sense (when helping people select frames)
  • You spend a lot of time doing fine manual labor