Career of the week: Dispensing optician

James Conway, dispensing optician at Dipple and Conway.

James Conway, dispensing optician at Dipple and Conway. - Credit: Archant

When it comes to choosing a pair of spectacles, most of us will try on a few designs, check the latest trends and see what our friends and family think of the frames. For dispensing opticians like James Conway at Dipple & Conway, its three years' hard study and annual training 'top-ups' to be able to interpret people's prescriptions. Amanda Sandland-Taylor finds out more.

What does the job involve?

The job involves choosing the correct spectacles, frame and lenses most suitable to the client's prescription. An optometrist tests your eyes and it's a dispensing optician who interprets the prescription, marrying up the suitable lenses, coatings and materials to ensure the client has a pair of comfortable spectacles.

Why is it a good profession to get into?

There are plenty of opportunities for dispensing opticians. Once you are qualified and are registered with the General Optical Council, you can choose to specialise in different areas such as contact lenses, children's eyewear and sport eyewear. You can also move into low vision aids which deals with people whose eyes cannot be corrected by conventional spectacles. It's as dynamic as you wish to make it.

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What are the positive/negatives of this profession?

It is satisfying knowing you're helping improve your clients' welfare and lifestyle. You get to make a difference fairly quickly turning the prescription into a pair of spectacles. As a dispensing optician you are always working with the public and it can be challenging managing strong personalities. If you embrace that and appreciate everyone is different, then you can turn a negative into a positive.

Is there much local demand for people in this area?

There will always be the need for qualified dispensing opticians to assist with people's vision requirements. Norfolk and East Anglia has quite a few opticians' practices and there are regular openings in the profession here. The skill set is high so it you do it well, you can walk into a job quite easily.

What would employers look for in someone applying for a vacancy?

In this profession you need great social skills as you are dealing with a wide mix of personalities and age groups, all with differing visual needs. You need strong problem-solving skills as the role is about reading the prescription, understanding the various aspects of the client's vision and presenting a solution.


To quality as a dispensing optician, you can either study full-time for three years for a BSc degree followed by a year supervised in practice. More commonly, you can do a foundation degree which is a three-year distance learning course with block-released days at university with full supervision by professional staff while you are studying. Anglia Ruskin in Cambridge is the nearest university available for this course.


Training takes three years before you can register as a dispensing optician with the General Optical Council. Once you are qualified there is Continual Education and Training (CET) to maintain registration.


Varies according to employer – £14,000-£30,000

Further information

General Optical Council

Association of British Dispensing Opticians