Dispensing Optician

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Dispensing Optician

Education and Training: High school plus training

Salary: Median—$27,950 per year

Employment Outlook: Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Dispensing opticians, sometimes called prescription opticians or ophthalmic dispensers, examine written prescriptions to determine the specifications of lenses. They recommend eyeglass frames, lenses, and lens coatings after considering the prescription and the customer's occupation, habits, and facial features. Dispensing opticians also make sure that the lenses and frames fit the patient properly.

Most dispensing opticians work in stores that sell eyeglasses. They measure each patient's face to decide exactly where the lenses should be placed. Then they send information on the size, color, shape, and prescription of the lenses to the optical laboratory. When the eyeglasses have been made, the dispensing optician measures and adjusts the glasses for the patient until they fit properly. They instruct clients about adapting to, wearing, or caring for eyeglasses.

Dispensing opticians with additional training fit patients for contact lenses by measuring the shape and size of the eye, selecting the type of contact lens material, and preparing work orders for the laboratory. Dispensing opticians also teach patients proper insertion, removal, and care of contact lenses.

Dispensing opticians also perform administrative tasks. They keep prescription records, work orders, and payment records. They also track inventory and sales.

Education and Training Requirements

Most dispensing opticians are trained on the job or through apprenticeships. Both types of training usually take two to four years to complete. Formal training is increasingly preferred. Community colleges offer training programs that lead to an associate degree.

Some states require dispensing opticians to be licensed. Licensing requirements usually include meeting educational and training standards and passing a written or practical test. In some states an individual must pass both tests. Dispensing opticians may become certified by the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) and the National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE). To maintain their certification, dispensing opticians must participate in continuing education.

Getting the Job

A school placement office can help students find a job. Interested individuals can apply directly to companies and private dispensing opticians for on-the-job training. In addition, a person can apply to companies that operate apprenticeship programs.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Dispensing opticians may advance by becoming the managers of their stores. Some open up their own businesses. Others may become sales representatives for wholesalers or manufacturers of eyeglasses or lenses.

Employment of dispensing opticians is expected to grow as fast as the average through the year 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The anticipated growth of the middle-aged and elderly populations requiring health and vision care will create a need for dispensing opticians. Also, as more customers buy contact lenses or more than one pair of glasses, the number of jobs for opticians is expected to increase.

Working Conditions

Dispensing opticians work in clean, quiet offices. Dispensing opticians must have a talent for sales and enjoy working with people. They generally work forty hours per week. Dispensing opticians may work some evenings and Saturdays.

Where to Go for More Information

American Board of Opticianry/National Contact Lens Examiners
6506 Loisdale Rd., Ste. 209
Springfield, VA 22150
(703) 719-5800

National Academy of Opticianry
8401 Corporate Dr., Ste. 605
Landover, MD 20785
(800) 229-4828

Opticians Association of America
441 Carlisle Dr.
Herndon, VA 20170
(800) 443-8997

Earnings and Benefits

Earnings vary depending on education, experience, and place of employment. In May 2004 the median annual salary of a dispensing optician was $27,950 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Owners, managers, and certified graduates of optician programs can earn more. Benefits for salaried dispensing opticians generally include paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, and pension plans.