Dispensing Optician

Dispensing opticians advise on, fit and supply spectacle frames and lenses after taking account of each patient’s lifestyle and vocational needs. Dispensing opticians are also able to fit contact lenses after undergoing further specialist training. Visit the Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO) website to find out more.

As a dispensing optician, you need to complete academic and practical training over a minimum of three years to obtain fellowship of the Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO). As part of your training you take part in work-based placements to help develop your practical skills as well as technical. All dispensing opticians need to register with the General Optical Council, too. Many Dispensing Opticians take on further training to learn how to fit contact lenses and provide low vision aids to the visually impaired.

You can qualify by taking:

  • a two-year, full-time diploma course, followed by one year working under supervision
  • a three-year, day release course if you’re in suitable employment
  • a three-year distance learning course, including a four-week residential block, offered by the ABDO – you’ll need to be in suitable employment

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English, maths and science
  • 1 or 2 A levels, or equivalent, including a science
The following universities and colleges offer dispensing optician degrees and courses:

You’ll need:

  • customer service skills
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • the ability to work well with your hands
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • maths knowledge
  • the ability to work well with others
  • the ability to sell products and services
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device

You will need to pass enhanced background checks

As a student you must join the student register of the General Optical Council before you carry out any clinical work.

If you qualified in another area of the EU or EEA and want to work in the UK, you need to check with the General Optical Council that your qualifications meet UK requirements. If your qualifications are accepted, you would then need to contact the Association of British Dispensing Opticians for details of their Professional Qualifying Examination.

You’ll work with clients who have a prescription to correct their vision from an optometrist or ophthalmologist.

As a dispensing optician, you could:

  • calculate vision distances and angles
  • provide advice and information on a customer’s options for lenses
  • measure for spectacles or contact lenses
  • use your sales and communications skills to help people choose the right types of spectacle frames
  • fit, adjust and repair frames
  • give advice on how to care for and get the best out of eye equipment
  • refer clients back to an optometrist for further vision tests when required

With experience, you could become assistant manager or self-employed.

You could work as a consultant to a lens manufacturer or as a sales representative, selling ophthalmological instruments. You could also work in a hospital or in university teaching.

With further training, you could go on to qualify and work as an optometrist.