Optician (Dispensing)

Dispensing Optician Overview

A dispensing optician's job is to take prescriptions and use them to fit patients with actual eyeglasses or contact lenses which meet their vision adjustment needs. Alternatively, for patients lacking a prescription from an optometrist or ophthalmologist, the dispensing optician uses a lensometer to determine the exact strength of the current eyeglass prescription, possibly confirming this with the examining ophthalmologist or by consulting the patient's medical records.




When fulfilling prescriptions, opticians take measurements that improve eyeglass fit, checking the space between the lens and the eye and noting the distance between the patient's pupils. They develop a recommendation for lenses, lens coatings, and eyeglass frames based both on the prescription and on the patient's facial structure, and life habits such as work and recreation that help determine the kind of prescription eyewear needed.

Their responsibilities include the following:

  • Discuss the client's eyewear needs

  • Choose the appropriate frame to satisfy the client's comfort, appearance and prescription requirements

  • Discuss and recommend types of lenses and lens enhancements

  • Ensure lenses conform to the prescription of the ophthalmologist (eye specialist) or optometrist

  • Shape lenses and fit them to frames, ensuring they meet quality standards

  • Ensure the new eyewear fits correctly and comfortably

  • Carry out minor repairs to damaged frames




Sales Must have the ability to provide a person with something they didn't know they needed. It's good to be able to up-sell and make the patient feel good about spending money on themselves.


Pay attention to detail so as to determine any problems and fix them or to discover little issues that go unnoticed.
Communication Be able to work and communicate with people to help them feel good about their glasses and to best fit them to what they need or want.


Must be able to use Math to solve complex problems
Dexterity Must be nimble with your fingers and good with your hands. You work with small parts and little screws, so you must be able to handle meticulous fixes.


Working Conditions

Working conditions for dispensing opticians are generally pleasant, in clean, well-appointed, clearly lighted office situations. They must spend extended periods standing and be prepared to deal with some minor work dangers, such as cutting glass, using certain chemicals, and operating small pieces of machinery.

Some dispensing opticians work alone, possibly part-time or with a standard 5-day work week, serving patients sequentially in a small retail location or at a medical office. Others, who are more likely to need to work evenings or weekends, perform their tasks as part of a team at a larger location, filling eyeglass prescriptions for multiple patients at one time.


Salary Outlook

How to Become a Dispensing Optician:


The usual education of a dispensing optician is working as another optician's apprentice for roughly two years. However, some community colleges and universities now offer Associate's Degrees in Opticianry accredited by the Commission on Opticianry Accreditation (COA), providing an alternative method of gaining the necessary credentials.


1. Complete an Apprenticeship  (2 Years)


Being an apprentice is a good option because there are so few optician degree programs in the country and they are sprawled out across the states. Attending one of these programs can be inconvenient for people who need a full-time income or have other responsibilities like a family. 

If you want to become an apprentice there are some requirements you must be aware of. It's important to check with your state to see what the requirements are before starting a program. Requirements can vary depending on state regulations and employer expectations, but they share common themes. Some of these requirements are the following:

  • A completed application
  • A high school diploma, transcript, or equivalency certificate
  • Sponsor information
  • Professional history
  • Criminal background check
  • Applicant statement
  • Health history
  • Letters of reference


 2. Earn an Associate's Degree (2 Years)


If you decide you want to complete a degree program, be prepared to probably re-locate, as there aren't many programs in the country, and spend one-to-two years completing the program. The programs consist of in-class instruction, labs, and practical instruction. You will have supervised clinical experience in which you learn the ropes and orient yourself with all the duties belonging to this position. The curriculum consists of the following: 

  • Assessment of the Visual System
  • Business Management
  • Contact Lens Clinical Experience (Internship or Externship)
  • Contact Lens Fitting
  • Contact Lens Modification
  • Contact Lens Theory
  • Dispensing Clinical Experience (Internship or Externship)
  • Dispensing Theory
  • Fabrication Techniques
  • Geometric Optics
  • Ocular Anatomy, Physiology, and Pathology
  • Ophthalmic Materials
  • Ophthalmic Terminology
  • Ophthalmic Optics
  • Opticianry Sales Techniques
  • Patient/customer/client Relationships
  • Prescription Analysis
  • Production & Quality Control Methods
  • Professional Ethics
  • Relationships with Eyecare Professionals and Laboratory Personnel
  • Safety and Environmental Health
  • Scope of Practice
  • Spectacle Fitting and Adjusting
  • State and National Opticianry Regulations

General Education Content Areas

  • Behavioral or Social Science
  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Science