Dispensing opticians supply, fit and sell glasses and contact lenses to a prescription given by an optometrist (ophthalmic optician). They give advice to clients on the best type of glasses to suit their needs. Dispensing opticians do not do eye tests.
Also known as
- Optician, Dispensing
Video: - Paul: Dispensing Optician
As a Dispensing Optician, you will supply and fit spectacles according to a prescription given by an Optometrist (Ophthalmic Optician).
You'll measure the client's face and features precisely, to place the lenses at the right angle and make sure the spectacle frame is comfortable and stable.
Then, you will have to check to make sure the spectacles match the prescription and will be appropriate to the client's lifestyle, including their job and sporting hobbies.
If you spot any sign of injury, abnormality or disease of the eye, you refer the client to a Doctor or Optometrist for further attention.
You also give clients advice on the style and fashion of frames, and type of lens. This helps the client to choose glasses that are appropriate to their needs, bearing in mind their job, lifestyle and leisure interests.
While taking measurements, you will prepare the instructions for the Technicians who make the glasses.
You give clients advice on getting the best results from their spectacles. Once the client has received their spectacles, you continue to give advice and makes any adjustments or repairs if needed.
You give advice and dispense optical aids to people who are partially sighted. With extra training, you can specialise in supplying and fitting contact lenses.
Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.
Personal Qualities and Skills
To become a Dispensing Optician, you'll need:
- to enjoy working with people
- patience and tact
- the ability to explain things clearly
- a careful, methodical approach and attention to detail
- number skills to understand and take measurements
- practical hand skills to make adjustments and do some repair work
An interest in fashion and the style of glasses is an advantage. If you work in a high street optician's shop, you'll need to like sales work. Computer skills are an advantage, for example, to update customers' records.
Pay and Opportunities
The pay rates given below are approximate.
- Starting: £20,500 - £23,000
- With experience: £25,500 - £31,000
- Senior Dispensing Opticians earn £34,500 - £38,500
Hours of work
Dispensing Opticians usually work 35 hours a week. You might need to work on Saturdays and have some late finishes.
Where could I work?
- high street opticians
- hospital eye clinics
- frame and lens manufacturers
- opthalmic instrument manufacturers and suppliers
Dispensing Opticians can also work as Sales Representatives for ophthalmic suppliers.
Opportunities for Dispensing Opticians occur in towns and cities throughout the UK.
There are opportunities for Dispensing Opticians to become self-employed in their own practice or as a locum in a number of practices.
Where are vacancies advertised?
Vacancies are advertised in local/national newspapers and on job boards. They are also advertised on the website of the Association of British Dispensing Opticians.
Entry Routes and Training
Entry routes and training
To become a Dispensing Optician, you must complete an appropriate course, a pre-qualification period in employment and the qualifying examinations (Fellowship Dispensing Diploma or FBDO) of the Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO). This leads to registration with the General Optical Council.
One training route is to first become employed by a qualified Optician and then:
- complete a three-year blended-learning course run by the ABDO
- go to college by day-release over three years
Or, you can enter after completing an appropriate full-time course, followed by the pre-registration year under the supervision of a qualified Optician, and then take the FBDO examinations. The options are:
- a two-year, full-time training course at one of several training institutions around the country
- a three-year degree course
A great way to get into this career is through an internship. Take a look at our information article '
Previous experience in a retail environment will be really helpful to get into this career.
After extra training, you could specialise in fitting contact lenses. You could move into a management position. With experience, you could become self-employed in your own practice, as a locum or in partnership with other Dispensing Opticians and Optometrists.
Rehabilitation of Offenders Act
This career is usually an exception to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. This means that you must supply information to an employer about any spent or unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands or warnings, if they ask you to.
This is different from other careers, where you only have to reveal information on unspent convictions if you are asked to.
The minimum entry requirement to sit the professional examinations of the Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO) is usually:
- 5 GCSEs (A*-C or 9-4), including English, maths and a science subject
- equivalent qualifications might also be acceptable
If you don't have the specified entry requirements, you can take an ABDO Access Course.
Some course providers relax the entry requirements for people who can demonstrate relevant skills and knowledge gained through work experience.
For entry to an appropriate training course, you should check requirements with the college or university of your choice.
It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.
If you don't have the qualifications needed for entry to a degree in ophthalmic dispensing, you might be able to start one after completing an Access course, such as Access to Science. You don't usually need any qualifications to start an Access course but you should check this with the course provider.
The Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO) has its own Access Courses, available through distance learning, for people who don't have the minimum entry requirements for enrolment onto one of the dispensing courses.
NHS Wales Careers
Publisher: National Leadership and Innovation Agency for Healthcare
Step into the NHS
Tel: 0345 6060655
Skills for Health
Skills for the health sector
Address: Goldsmiths House, Broad Plain, Bristol BS2 0JP
Tel: 0117 9221155
Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO)
Address: 199 Gloucester Terrace, London W2 6LD
Tel: 020 7298 5100
General Optical Council (GOC)
Address: 41 Harley Street, London W1G 8DJ
Tel: 020 7580 3898
Address: PO Box 804, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire HP20 9DF
Tel: 0845 1295001
People Exchange Cymru (PEC)
Public sector recruitment portal for Wales