Optical Dispenser Responsibilities (Plus Beneficial Skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 13 October 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you have an interest in optics and vision and you enjoy communicating with customers, then a job as an optical dispenser might be right for you. An optical dispenser is an individual who sells, measures, fits and modifies prescription glasses or contact lenses for a customer. Learning about the daily duties of an optical dispenser can help you determine if it's a job that's right for you. In this article, we describe common optical dispenser responsibilities, discuss their work environment, outline some beneficial skills and provide job search tips.

Related: How Much Do Optometrists Earn? (Plus Salary Considerations)

Optical dispenser responsibilities

Here are some common optical dispenser responsibilities you may perform in this role:

Interpret optical prescriptions

Optometrists are responsible for examining a patient's eyes. If they detect any defects, they usually write an eyeglass prescription for the patient to take to an optical dispenser who orders the appropriate lenses and frames for them. To ensure a client receives the correct glasses or contact lenses, an optical dispenser is responsible for accurately reading the client's prescription and interpreting what they need. For example, professional dispensers can determine from a prescription whether the client is farsighted or nearsighted, whether this defect is in one eye or both and how severe their condition is.

Take facial measurements

Optical dispensers take facial measurements of their clients to ensure they order a frame and lenses that fit the client comfortably. Because each person has unique facial features, such as individualised nose size and cheekbone shape, professional dispensers often need to measure the distance between the lenses and the bridge of the nose and the length of a client's face to make an assessment of what glasses are most suitable. Other crucial considerations include:

  • How much curvature the frames require to fit the client's face shape

  • The optimal distance between the client's eyes and the back surface of the lens

  • What temple length fits most comfortably around the client's ears

  • What lens height and width allow the client's eyes to be centred

Answer questions about frame options

During their visit to an optical dispenser, a client may have specific questions about frame options that require well-informed answers. For example, a client may approach you and explain that they're searching for light-weighted, fashionable spectacle frames and ask what options you might suggest. This can require knowledge of the latest fashion trends and weight differences between frames. You might also need to know the average prices of certain frames to help the client make a decision that's within their budget range.

Related: Skills Required for Good Customer Service

Supervise trainees

Some optical dispensing businesses may require you to train and supervise trainees. Trainees can include recent graduates or new employees who are unfamiliar with the business's workflow process. This responsibility can involve acting as a role model and providing the trainee with clear instructions, such as a step-by-step guide on how to help clients select contact lenses and glasses, how to maintain records of client prescriptions and how to perform various administrative duties. You might also keep a record of their weekly progress and provide regular feedback to offer them encouragement.

Related: How to Train a New Employee (Useful Guide With Tips)

Calculate inventory and order stock

To ensure the store is well-stocked and able to accommodate clients' needs, a key responsibility of an optical dispenser is calculating inventory and ordering stock items when required. Common stock items you might order include lenses, hinges, end pieces, pad arms, eyeglass rims, nose pads and screws. As part of this duty, you might also be required to do a weekly or monthly inventory audit to help the business calculate its profits and determine which items are most and least in demand.

Answer phone calls and schedule appointments

As an optical dispenser, you might find employment working in an optometry practice. In this context, you may be responsible for scheduling appointments for patients with an optometrist. This can require you to access an optometrist's calendar and make sure you're booking appointments within their available time slots. You might also receive daily phone calls from potential patients who wish to know certain information, such as what types of eye health checks the practice provides and which private health funds the clinic accepts.

Work environment of an optical dispenser

Optical dispensers often work in optical dispensaries, optometrist clinics or optical laboratories. Professional dispensers usually perform in a team environment. They may also work on their feet for extended periods of time, walking around a store to greet customers and discuss their different purchase options.

Beneficial skills for an optical dispenser

Here are several skills you may consider developing to help you succeed as an optical dispenser:

Customer service

Customer service skills are essential to the role of an optical dispenser, as a major part of the job involves speaking with customers and helping them choose a pair of glasses or contact lenses that suit their needs. Sometimes you may have impatient customers who expect you to solve their issues instantly. Having excellent customer service skills can allow you to show patience and thoughtfulness when dealing with this type of customer and resolve their issue in a timely manner. Approaching all interactions with this approach can create a positive environment and encourage customers to return.

Related: 12 Good Customer Service Examples

Product knowledge

Because optical dispensers sell an array of products, having extensive product knowledge can allow you to answer customer queries comfortably and recommend a variety of frames and lenses that a customer may not have considered. Eyewear technology is constantly evolving, and styles and trends consistently change too. For example, the optical industry is making advancements in lens capabilities each year, and many fashion trends, such as clear frames and tinted lenses, come in and out of fashion periodically. Researching and staying up to date with product knowledge and trend changes can make you a highly valuable optical dispenser.

Fine motor skills

Crafting and modifying pairs of glasses is a major part of an optical dispenser's duties. Performing this well can require strong hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills to adjust the glasses so that they properly fit a client's face. You can increase your motor skills by practising other hobbies that require using your hands, such as knitting, painting or learning a musical instrument.

Sales skills

Many optical dispensers function as sales representatives within a glasses store and help customers find and purchase a pair of glasses or contacts. This means that developing your sales abilities can help you sell more glasses, which may improve your overall performance and earning potential. You can refine your sales skills by enrolling in a sales-related training or development course or finding a suitable mentor who can offer you advice on how to negotiate effectively and build relationships with customers.

Computer skills

As an optical dispenser, you may use a variety of computer programs and tools to help you complete your tasks. For example, you might use computer software to input prescription orders, measure eyeglass frames or record sales and inventory data. Improving your knowledge of these programs may allow you to perform more efficiently as an optical dispenser.

Related: Computer Skills: Definition and Examples

Tips for securing an optical dispenser job

Here are several tips you may consider when trying to secure an optical dispenser role:

Gain educational requirements

Many hiring companies who are searching for optical dispensers require candidates to have completed relevant coursework. If you wish to gain relevant training and expertise in this field, consider completing a Certificate IV in Optical Dispensing. This course is available at many vocational schools in Australia and can take 12 to 18 months to finish. Gaining this certificate can provide you with the skills and abilities that employers may find desirable, such as an ability to read optical prescriptions, an understanding of customer service techniques and knowledge of how to place orders and sell products.

Pursue an entry-level job

Once you've acquired appropriate qualifications, pursuing an entry-level job as an optical dispenser is an excellent way to gain industry experience you can use on your resume. Entry-level positions can also provide you with valuable insight into the daily tasks of an optical dispenser, as you're likely to perform many valuable tasks, such as ordering stock and providing customers with product information. You might find an entry-level position in eyeglass retail shops or optometrist offices.

Related: What Is an Entry-Level Job? (With Types and Career Tips)

Organise your job search efforts

Another excellent way to secure an optical dispenser job is to organise your job search efforts so you can apply for roles and keep track of them more efficiently. For example, consider scheduling a block of 30 minutes to one hour in your calendar for each day and devote this time exclusively to job searching. This can help you hold yourself accountable. Creating a spreadsheet is another useful organisational tool. You can use this to record the jobs you've applied for and track the status of your applications.

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