How do I Become an Ophthalmic Dispensing Optician?

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  • Written By: Amy Hunter
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 21 November 2018
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There are several ways to become an ophthalmic dispensing optician. A dispensing optician is responsible for reading prescriptions prepared by ophthalmologists and opticians. He or she fits the patient with glasses, and prepares the work order so that an optical laboratory can prepare the glasses. Once the glasses are complete, the dispensing optician will make a final check of the prescription and fit of the glasses.

Ophthalmic dispensing opticianry is one career where apprenticeships are still available. With a high school diploma, someone interested in this field can receive an apprenticeship, lasting about two years, which will train them in the skills necessary to become an ophthalmic dispensing optician. It is easier, however, to become an ophthalmic dispensing optician by taking some college courses. Classes in college algebra, anatomy, physics and trigonometry will all make the apprenticeship easier, as will having experience working with computers.

There is also formal education available for those interested in this field. Some four-year colleges offer courses, and many community colleges offer two-year degree programs. A quality two-year program will be accredited by the Commission of Opticianry Accreditation.


At least 21 states require a current license to become an ophthalmic dispensing optician. Each state has different requirements for licensing. Some states require that candidates pass a state mandated exam, which may be either written or practical. Other states require a certification examination by either the American Board of Opticianry (ABO), or the National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE). Once licensed, it is often a requirement to take continuing education classes to maintain the certification.

Both the NCLE and the ABO provide licenses to dispensing opticians that live in states where licensing is not required. Maintaining a current license, even in states where they are not required, is an excellent way to earn a pay increase, or receive a promotion. In a tight job market, it can also make finding a new job easier.

After becoming an ophthalmic dispensing optician, many people choose to specialize further in their career. Additional training is necessary for the dispensing optician that wishes to specialize in fitting contact lenses. He or she must be capable of measuring the shape and size of the eye, as well as knowing what type of contact lens material would be best suited for the patient.

Some dispensing opticians receive training to measure and fit artificial eyes and cosmetic shells used to cover eyes that have received damage. This type of work is extremely specialized, and requires not only technical skill, but a great deal of patience and attention to detail. Other dispensing opticians want to manage or own their own store. They often seek additional training to learn business management and accounting skills. Most community colleges offer classes geared to training the prospective small business owner or manager.



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