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Article: Optical Careers


This article covers the following jobs:

  • Dispensing Optician
  • Optometrist
  • Orthoptist.

The job descriptions are only a brief summary. You should find out more about the careers that interest you.

Video: - Various: Dental, Optical and Pharmacy Careers


Optical work covers careers in examining and treating problems with eyes.

Some people might have a minor problem, meaning that they need to wear glasses for reading or driving. Others might have a more serious defect, so they need treatment in hospital.

Optical work involves a lot of contact with people, helping them and explaining things.

Some of the careers in optical work


Optometrists examine people's eyes, test their eyesight and write prescriptions for glasses and contact lenses.

When a patient arrives at the optician's, the optometrist carries out a series of tests. These tests enable the optometrist to find out if the patient's eyes are healthy and if they can see properly. They use special equipment to carry out the tests; then they note the results.

If there is a medical problem with the patient's eyes, the optometrist refers them to a doctor or a hospital eye department. If they need glasses, the optometrist uses more tests to find out exactly how much of a defect there is.

The optometrist writes a prescription, which states the strength of glasses or contact lenses that the patient needs.

To become an optometrist, you need to complete a degree course in optometry, followed by more training and an exam.


Orthoptists diagnose and treat abnormal eye movements and problems with vision.

Much of their work is with children, treating problems such as strabismus (squints) and amblyopia (lazy eye). They can work with people of any age, for example, treating eye problems linked to stroke in older adults. In some clinics, they help doctors to diagnose and treat conditions such as glaucoma.

To treat a squint or lazy eye, the orthoptist might place a patch over the patient's better eye. This exercises and improves the vision in the amblyopic or squinting eye.

With some patients, the orthoptist might have to refer the patient to an ophthalmologist for surgery.

To become an orthoptist, you need to complete a degree course in orthoptics.

Dispensing Optician

Dispensing opticians supply and fit glasses, following the prescription prepared by an optometrist. They give the customer advice on different types of spectacle frames and lenses.

When the customer has chosen the frames they want, the dispensing optician carefully measures their face, so they can make sure the glasses will fit properly.

They write down the details of the prescription for the people who actually make the lenses (optical technicians). When the technician has made the glasses, dispensing opticians give them to the customer and make sure they fit properly.

To train as a dispensing optician, you'll usually need at least five GCSEs at grades A* to C. There are various training routes - you can combine employment with part-time study, or complete a full-time course first.

Dispensing opticians need to pass the examinations of the Association of British Dispensing Opticians and have a pre-registration year in employment before they can register with the General Optical Council.

Further Information

Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO)

Address: 199 Gloucester Terrace, London W2 6LD

Tel: 020 7298 5100



British and Irish Orthoptic Society (BIOS)

Address: 62 Wilson Street, London EC2A 2BU

Tel: 01353 665541


General Optical Council (GOC)

Address: 41 Harley Street, London W1G 8DJ

Tel: 020 7580 3898



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