A dispensing optician deals with the technical and retail aspect of the business. Simply put, a dispensing optician is the one in charge of providing glasses and other optical aids to customers. They fit the glasses, help customers choose which optical product fits them, and dispense advice regarding optical products.
Of course, there’s another side to this job: the retail side. Dispensing opticians are also responsible for selling the optical aids. They combine their technical know-how and their customer service ability to sell these products.
At times, they also help customers regarding the basics of their optical wear. How should you wear contact lenses? How would you know if the glasses should be replaced? Basically, a dispensing optician should know the answer to these questions – and others – while keeping an eye on the store and making sure that it is operating efficiently.
Salary & benefits
Dispensing opticians can earn an annual salary of £18,000 to £30,000, although the higher salary is reserved for store branch managers and those dispensing opticians who have more experience.
Opticians work from nine-to-five, with the occasional overtime work when there are sales. In general, they work roughly 40 hours a week.
In order to practice as a dispensing optician, you must be registered with the General Optical Council (GOC). Before you can be registered, you are required to complete a course approved by the GOC and pass the relevant examinations from the Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO).
Candidates will usually need five GCSE’s (A-C), including Maths, English and a science subject to get on an accredited course of training.
As with most industries, anyone who already has extensive work experience as a dispensing optician can forgo the usual requirements for accreditation (the ABDO requires at least ten years of relevant work experience to waive the requirement).
The ABDO also has a number of alternative courses for those candidates with no GCSEs.
Dispensing opticians need to be both mathematical and scientific. They also need to be able to work well with other people as the bulk of an optician’s work deals with helping people with their optical aids needs. In general, dispensing opticians should be committed to customer service.
Training & progression
Most dispensing opticians get into the profession with a clear vision of moving into more specialised areas. Many do progress and get promoted as store branch managers but, as this position is not as common as the normal dispensing positions, it is often necessary to move stores to get the deserved promotion.
It's also not unusual for dispensing opticians to become self-employed by opening their own stores or starting their own folding reading glasses website.