Optical Dispenser

Optical dispensers, or dispensing opticians, provide spectacles to people with vision defects. Contact lenses may also be fitted. They interpret and analyse prescriptions received from optometrists and ophthalmologists.

They evaluate prescriptions in conjunction with the clients' visual requirements, and determine what type of lenses would be most suitable for a client’s lifestyle, taking safety, cosmetic benefits and aesthetic considerations into account.  They assist the clients with the selection of frames according to style and colour, and ensure that the frames are coordinated with facial and eye measurements and optical prescriptions.  They measure the clients' bridge and eye size, temple length and optical centres of the eyes, using measuring devices.

Work orders and instructions for grinding lenses and fabricating the eyeglasses are prepared.  They need to ensure that the lenses are made in accordance with the minimum specifications laid down by the SABS. Once the lenses have been received, they are fitted into the frames chosen by the client, then the eyeglasses assembled by cutting and edging the lenses and fitting the lenses into the frames. 

The optical technicians then heat, shape or bend the plastic or metal frames to adjust the eyeglasses to fit comfortably and to enhance the clients’ appearance as far as possible.  They show the customers how to wear and care for their eyeglasses and how to insert, remove and care for their contact lenses.

Other tasks are to maintain records of the customer prescriptions, work orders and payments, perform administrative duties such as tracking inventory and sales, submitting patient insurance information and performing simple bookkeeping. They also determine clients' current lens prescriptions, when necessary, using lensometers or lens anlysers and the clients' eyeglasses, sell goods such as lens cleaners, spectacles, sunglasses and other goods related to eyes in general, order and purchase frames and lenses, repair damaged frames and arrange and maintain the displays of the optical merchandise.

Optical dispensers must have a thorough knowledge of the different materials that can be used and should keep up-to-date with new technology as well as fashion trends in this field.

Personal Requirements

  • good interpersonal skills
  • empathetic, patient and tactful
  • some flair for fashion
  • enjoy precision work
  • some mechanical and technical aptitude
  • finger dexterity and a steady hand
  • good eye-hand coordination
  • good eyesight

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics, Physical Science
Recommended subjects: Life Sciences

  • Pass matric with a Bachelor's pass
  • Meet the admission requirements (APS) set by the university
  • All applications for admission to MBChB and Medical degrees are subject to selection.
  • Due to the limited number of spaces available, only a small percentage of applicants are admitted.

What to Study

Diploma: N.Dip: Optical Dispensing - CPUT

Registration with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) is mandatory for this occupation. Consult the HPCSA website for the most up-to-date information relating to accredited qualifications and registration requirements. This information can be found in the relevant sections under the Professional Board for Optometry & Dispensing Opticians.


  • optical laboratories
  • self-employment, with enough experience and capital, can start own dispensing practice

Further Information

South African Optometric Association
561 Nupen Crescent
Halfway House
Extension 12
Tel: (011) 805-4517

Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) 
(553) of Hamilton and
Madiba Streets
Arcadia, Pretoria
Tel: (012) 338-9300

Getting Started

  • try to obtain vacation or part-time work in an optical shop
  • arrange to speak to an optical dispenser about this type of career

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