Opticians help to improve and correct an individual’s vision according to prescriptions provided by a specialised doctor in ophthalmology or an optometrist. They fit spectacle lenses and frames, contact lenses, and other devices to the specifications of both the individual and the prescription. Opticians do not test patients vision nor write prescriptions for visual correction. Their scope of practice varies according to national regulations.
Opticians typically do the following:
- Use prescription information from the doctor and the patient’s preferences, face shape and other factors to help select the appropriate pair of eyeglasses, frames and lenses.
- Give product recommendations to patients based on their vision needs and lifestyle, such as frame construction, lens material and lens coatings.
- Take accurate measurements of each patient’s face and optical details to ensure a comfortable and proper fit before ordering frames.
- Adjust new frames using optical tools or pliers to get a closer and more accurate fit on the patient’s face when the patient has problems with comfort or poor vision.
- Instruct patients on how to use contact lenses by showing them how to clean the lenses, insert them, remove them easily and properly care for contact lenses.
- Maintain a clean and visually appealing daily optical display by organizing the stock of eyeglasses, sunglasses and accessories.
- Complete additional office tasks regularly such as preparing paperwork for patient insurance payments, ordering inventory and tracking orders in the system.
The following job titles also refer to optician:
contact lens optician
corrective lens dispenser
contact lens specialist
spectacle dispensing optician
Opticians who work as part of a group optometry or medical practice work with optometrists and ophthalmologists to provide eye-related medical care to patients.
Opticians who work in large retail establishments, such as department stores, may have to work evenings and weekends. Most opticians work full time, although part-time opportunities also are available.
Opticians typically have a high school diploma or equivalent and learn job skills through on-the-job training. Training includes technical instruction in which, for example, a new optician measures a customer’s eyes or adjusts frames under the supervision of an experienced optician. Trainees also learn sales and office management practices. Some opticians complete an apprenticeship, which typically takes at least 2 years.
Other opticians complete a postsecondary education program at a community college or technical school.
ISCO skill level
ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:
- the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
- the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
- the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.
Optician is a Skill level 3 occupation.
Optician career path
These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to optician.
Long term prospects
These occupations require some skills and knowledge of optician. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of optician with a significant experience and/or extensive training.
Essential knowledge and skills
This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of optician.
- Health care legislation: The patients` rights and responsibilities of health practitioners and the possible repercussions and prosecutions in relation to medical treatment negligence or malpractice.
- Optical glass characteristics: The characteristics of optical glass such as refractive index, dispersion, and chemical properties.
- Quality standards of ophthalmic equipment: The various national or international quality standards for ophthalmic equipment (glasses, lenses, etc) such as ISO 10685-1:2011.
- Eye protection regulations: Eye protection regulations and relevant standards in relation to occupational visual requirements.
- Optical instruments: The characteristics and usage of optical instruments such as lens-meter, to determine refractive power of lenses such as glasses.
Essential skills and competences
These skills are necessary for the role of optician.
- Respond to changing situations in health care: Cope with pressure and respond appropriately and in time to unexpected and rapidly changing situations in healthcare.
- Educate on the prevention of illness: Offer evidence-based advice on how to avoid ill health, educate and advise individuals and their carers on how to prevent ill health and/or be able to advise how to improve their environment and health conditions. Provide advice on the identification of risks leading to ill health and help to increase the patients’ resilience by targeting prevention and early intervention strategies.
- Inform policy makers on health-related challenges: Provide useful information related to health care professions to ensure policy decisions are made in the benefit of communities.
- Contribute to continuity of health care: Contribute to the delivery of coordinated and continuous healthcare.
- Ensure customer focus: Attitude that puts customers at the centre of the business in all cases.
- Use e-health and mobile health technologies: Use mobile health technologies and e-health (online applications and services) in order to enhance the provided healthcare.
- Handle contact lenses: Demonstrate how to insert, remove and care for contact lenses; ensure that contact lenses will fit correctly and feel comfortable.
- Adjust eyeglasses to fit customers: Shape and bend plastic or metal eyeglass frames in order to adjust eyeglasses to fit customers using pliers and hands and applying heat if necessary.
- Empathise with the healthcare user: Understand the background of clients` and patients’ symptoms, difficulties and behaviour. Be empathetic about their issues; showing respect and reinforcing their autonomy, self-esteem and independence. Demonstrate a concern for their welfare and handle according to the personal boundaries, sensitivities, cultural differences and preferences of the client and patient in mind.
- Use lensometer: Use a lensometer to take measurements for clients who do not have a prescription in order to make eyeglasses and lenses.
- Monitor stock level: Evaluate how much stock is used and determine what should be ordered.
- Manage healthcare users’ data: Keep accurate client records which also satisfy legal and professional standards and ethical obligations in order to facilitate client management, ensuring that all clients’ data (including verbal, written and electronic) are treated confidentially.
- Prepare work orders for the optical laboratory: Prepare and oversee work scheme and day-to-day activities for the optical laboratory.
- Deal with emergency care situations: Assess the signs and be well-prepared for a situation that poses an immediate threat to a person’s health, security, property or environment.
- Advise customers on eyewear maintenance: Provide customers with detailed advice on the correct use and maintenance of eyewear.
- Apply numeracy skills: Practise reasoning and apply simple or complex numerical concepts and calculations.
- Operate optical measuring equipment: Operate optical measuring equipment to take client’s measurements; determine bridge and eye size, papillary distance, vertex distance, optical eye centres, etc., in order to manufacture customised eyeglasses or contact lenses.
- Provide health education: Provide evidence based strategies to promote healthy living, disease prevention and management.
- Dispense corrective lenses: Dispense eyeglasses and contact lenses according to doctors’ prescriptions.
- Repair lenses: Repair or replace damaged lenses for customers’ spectacles.
- Follow clinical guidelines: Follow agreed protocols and guidelines in support of healthcare practice which are provided by healthcare institutions, professional associations, or authorities and also scientific organisations.
- Perform frames’ repairs: Repair/replace damaged frames or glasses for customers.
- Advise on healthcare users’ informed consent: Ensure patients/clients are fully informed about the risks and benefits of proposed treatments so they can give informed consent, engaging patients/clients in the process of their care and treatment.
- Verify lenses compliance: Verify that lenses are according to the specifications.
- Comply with optical prescriptions: Interpret and coordinate frames and eye measurements in accordance with the customer’s optical prescriptions.
- Cut lenses for eyeglasses: Shape and cut lenses to fit into frames for eyeglasses, according to prescriptions or specifications.
- Comply with quality standards related to healthcare practice: Apply quality standards related to risk management, safety procedures, patients feedback, screening and medical devices in daily practice, as they are recognized by the national professional associations and authorities.
- Comply with legislation related to health care: Comply with the regional and national legislation that is relevant to one`s work and apply it in practice.
- Listen actively: Give attention to what other people say, patiently understand points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times; able to listen carefully the needs of customers, clients, passengers, service users or others, and provide solutions accordingly.
- Apply health sciences: Apply a broad range of bio-medical, psycho-social, organisational, educational, and societal aspects of health, disease, and healthcare to improve healthcare services and to improve quality of life.
- Adhere to organisational guidelines: Adhere to organisational or department specific standards and guidelines. Understand the motives of the organisation and the common agreements and act accordingly.
- Maintain records of clients’ prescriptions: Keep records of customers’ prescriptions, payments and work orders sent to the laboratory.
- Work in a multicultural environment in health care: Interact, relate and communicate with individuals from a variety of different cultures, when working in a healthcare environment.
- Promote inclusion: Promote inclusion in health care and social services and respect diversity of beliefs, culture, values and preferences, keeping in mind the importance of equality and diversity issues.
- Interact with healthcare users: Communicate with clients and their carer’s, with the patient’s permission, to keep them informed about the clients’ and patients’ progress and safeguarding confidentiality.
- Ensure safety of healthcare users: Make sure that healthcare users are being treated professionally, effectively and safe from harm, adapting techniques and procedures according to the person’s needs, abilities or the prevailing conditions.
- Apply organisational techniques: Employ a set of organisational techniques and procedures which facilitate the achievement of the goals set. Use these resources efficiently and sustainably, and show flexibility when required.
- Develop a collaborative therapeutic relationship: Develop a mutually collaborative therapeutic relationship during treatment, fostering and gaining healthcare users’ trust and cooperation.
- Advise on contact lense maintenance: Advise patients on how to clean and wear contact lenses to maximise lifespan and minimise risk of complications.
- Apply context specific clinical competences: Apply professional and evidence based assessment, goal setting, delivery of intervention and evaluation of clients, taking into account the developmental and contextual history of the clients, within one`s own scope of practice.
- Work in multidisciplinary health teams: Participate in the delivery of multidisciplinary health care, and understand the rules and competences of other healthcare related professions.
- Accept own accountability: Accept accountability for one`s own professional activities and recognise the limits of one`s own scope of practice and competencies.
Optional skills and competences
These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of optician. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.
- Operate cash register: Register and handle cash transactions by using point of sale register.
- Sell optical products: Sell glasses and sunglasses, contact lenses, spectacles, binoculars, cleaning kits and other eye-related products, according to customer’s needs in terms of optical requirements such as bi-focals, varifocals and reactolite.
- Maintain relationship with customers: Build a lasting and meaningful relationship with customers in order to ensure satisfaction and fidelity by providing accurate and friendly advice and support, by delivering quality products and services and by supplying after-sales information and service.
- Operate cash point: Count the money; balance cash drawer at the end of the shift; receive payments and process payment information; use scanning equipment.
- Manage staff: Manage employees and subordinates, working in a team or individually, to maximise their performance and contribution. Schedule their work and activities, give instructions, motivate and direct the workers to meet the company objectives. Monitor and measure how an employee undertakes their responsibilities and how well these activities are executed. Identify areas for improvement and make suggestions to achieve this. Lead a group of people to help them achieve goals and maintain an effective working relationship among staff.
- Maintain relationship with suppliers: Build a lasting and meaningful relationship with suppliers and service providers in order to establish a positive, profitable and enduring collaboration, co-operation and contract negotiation.
- Process payments: Accept payments such as cash, credit cards and debit cards. Handle reimbursement in case of returns or administer vouchers and marketing instruments such as bonus cards or membership cards. Pay attention to safety and the protection of personal data.
- Achieve sales targets: Reach set sales goals, measured in revenue or sold units. Reach the target within a specific timeframe, prioritise sold products and services accordingly and plan in advance.
- Provide treatment strategies for challenges to human health: Identify possible treatment protocols for the challenges to human health within a given community in cases such as infectious diseases of high consequences at the global level.
- Employ foreign languages for health-related research: Use foreign languages for conducting and collaborating in health-related research.
- Have computer literacy: Utilise computers, IT equipment and modern day technology in an efficient way.
- Make referrals to ophthalmology: Transfer the care of a patient to the ophthalmology service, the branch of medicine that deals with the anatomy, physiology and diseases of the eye.
- Employ foreign languages in care: Communicate in foreign languages with healthcare users, their carers, or services providers. Use foreign languages to facilitate patient care according to the needs of the patient.
ISCO group and title
3254 – Dispensing opticians
- Optician – ESCO
- Opticians : Occupational Outlook Handbook – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Optician in Canada | Job Description – Job Bank
- Opticians Job Description Examples | Medical | LiveCareer
- Featured image: Photo by Pavel Danilyuk from Pexels