Dispensing optician

Dispensing opticians are trained to make up optical prescriptions written by Optometrists or Ophthalmologists. They also advise on, supply and fit glasses, and other optical aids to meet their patients' requirements.

In hospital settings, Dispensing opticians often work with partially sighted patients whose vision cannot be improved by medical or surgical treatment. They advise on the use of low vision aids, such as magnifiers and both monocular and binocular telescopic aids.

Dispensing opticians advise patients on different types of lenses and frame styles depending on their prescription. They give patients guidance on how to wear and care for their new glasses. With further specialist training, dispensing opticians can also fit and provide advice on contact lenses based on a prescription from an Optometrist or Ophthalmologist

Dispensing opticians often act as practice managers in an optometry practice or their own practice so leadership skills will be necessary in that role.

As a Dispensing optician, other duties may include:

  • preparing optical prescriptions
  • taking measurements to ensure frames fit correctly and comfortably
  • adjusting and repairing frames
  • giving advice to patients with low vision aids
  • ordering lenses and other optical products

To work as an Dispensing optician, useful skills include:

  • a good understanding of mathematical and scientific principles and methods
  • good problem solving skills
  • strong communication skills and an interest in working with people
  • keeping up to date with scientific and technological developments
  • teamworking skills
  • confidence in using new techniques or ophthalmic equipment

 As a Dispensing optician, you will need to be:

  • patient and understanding
  • able to make patients feel at ease
  • compassionate and sensitive
  • able to concentrate when carrying out repetitive tasks
  • remain calm under pressure
  • able to work accurately and precisely, with attention to detail

To work as a Dispensing optician, you must be registered with the General Optical Council (GOC), after completing an approved degree programme or Distance Learning Diploma. A full list of approved institutions and programmes in the UK is available on the GOC website.

In Scotland, Glasgow Caledonian University offers a 3 year Opthalmic Dispensing degree. The minimum academic entry requirements include SQA Highers at BBC grade, including a science subject and Maths, English and Physics at SQA National 5 grades A-C if not taken at Higher level. More information about the entry requirements for this degree course is available on the university’s website.

All students are required by the General Optical Council to have been cleared by Disclosure Scotland at the advanced level to work in a clinical situation in order to enrol on this course.

Once you graduate, . You must then complete a pre-registration year of supervised work in a practice , following  which you will be required to pass additional exams of the Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO) which will lead to professional registration with the GOC.

Modern Apprenticeships offer those aged over 16 paid employment with the opportunity to train for jobs at craft, technician and management level.

Currently, there are no Modern Apprenticeships which would lead directly to a career as a Dispensing optician.

While working as a qualified dispensing optician, you will need to continue your education and training so your knowledge and skills are current. Continuing Education and Training (CET) is a statutory requirement for maintaining your registration with the GOC. Registration must be renewed annually for as long as you wish to practise in the UK.

NHS Education for Scotland (NES) provides high level support and training courses for dispensing opticians who provide care under the NHS General Ophthalmic Services (GOS) contract.

When you have qualified as a dispensing optician and gained some professional experience, you may go on to work in a specialist area after undertaking additional training. The Contact Lens Certificate qualifies dispensing opticians in the supply and fitting of contact lenses and they can call themselves “Contact Lens Opticians”.

General Optical Council (GOC)

GOC is the regulator for optical professions in the UK. It currently has around 29,000 optometrists, dispensing opticians, student opticians and optical businesses on its register. The GOC aims to promote high standards of education and performance amongst optical professionals.


Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO)

ABDO represents qualified dispensing opticians in the UK. It is an advocate for improving the standards of their education and training through CET. Find out more on the ABDO website.