Dispensing Opticians


Education and Training Requirements

High School

A high school diploma is necessary to enter an apprenticeship or other training program in opticianry. If you are interested in this work, you should take courses such as algebra, geometry, trigonometry, basic anatomy, biology, and physics while in high school. Also, be sure to take English classes to hone your written and oral communication skills.

Postsecondary Training

While a number of dispensing opticians learn their skills on the job, many learn their work by completing apprenticeship programs. In addition, some employers prefer to hire those with associate's degrees, and this may be an increasing trend. The Commission on Opticianry Accreditation has accredited about 20 associate's degree and certificate programs that lead to work as a dispensing optician. Visit http://coaccreditation.com/accredited-programs to view the list. Associate's degree holders are able to advance more rapidly than those who complete an apprenticeship program. Two-year optician programs are offered at community colleges and trade schools and include courses on mechanical optics, geometric optics, ophthalmic dispensing procedures, contact lens practice, business concepts, communications, mathematics, and laboratory work in grinding and polishing procedures.

Some dispensing opticians complete an apprenticeship program offered by optical dispensing companies. These apprenticeships include some of the same subjects as those covered in the two-year associate's degree program and may take two to four years to complete. Some specialized training programs may be offered by contact lens manufacturers and professional societies. These are generally shorter and usually cover a particular area of technical training, such as contact lens fitting.

Other Education or Training

The National Academy of Opticianry offers home study and online courses that can be used toward credit requirements for certification. Recent classes included Visual Assessment Testing Procedures, Lens Materials and Design, Build Your People Skills with Emotional Intelligence, Management for Optical Retailers, Professional Optical Selling, and Marketing for Optical Retailers. The Opticians Association of America also provides continuing education opportunities. Contact these organizations for more information.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Approximately 20 states and Puerto Rico currently require dispensing opticians to be licensed. Licensing requires meeting certain educational standards and passing a written examination. Some states require a practical, hands-on examination. To find out more about licensing procedures, contact the licensing board of the state or states in which you plan to work.

Professional credentials may also include voluntary certification. Certification is offered by the American Board of Opticianry and the National Contact Lens Examiners.

Some states may permit dispensing opticians to fit contact lenses without certification, provided they have additional training.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Working as an assistant in an optical shop will provide useful experience for aspiring dispensing opticians.

Opticians need to have steady hands and good hand-eye coordination for the tiny, tedious tightening and adjustment jobs that need to be made to glasses. They need to be patient and meticulous when it comes to measuring the cornea for contact lenses or making sure by checking their lens machine that someone's prescription is exactly right. A soothing and confident manner is beneficial for an optician. Opticians touch their customers, when checking the fit of frames, when checking their eyes, when adjusting the finished glasses, or inserting someone's contacts for them initially. A fine sense of touch is an attribute of a good dispensing optician.

Since dispensing opticians very often play a large role in a customer's frame selection, it is important that the optician has a good sense of color and feels comfortable advising the customer. Taking hair and skin color as well as face shape into account is what helps the optician to point out flattering and practical frames for the customer.

There are many qualities important to a dispensing optician, but perhaps the most important of all is good communication skills. To be able to obtain the information needed to help customers through the eye-wear process, to make them feel at ease and in a friendly environment, to have a gentle and efficient manner: these are the crucial skills.