Part-time or summer employment in an optical shop is an excellent way to gain insight into the skills needed to excel in this field. You can also explore opportunities in the field through discussions with professionals already working as dispensing opticians. Finally, learn as much as you can about eyes and common eye conditions at the American Optometric Association's Web site, https://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public, and other sources.
Dispensing opticians must be familiar with methods, materials, and operations employed in the optical industry. Their tasks include ensuring that eyeglasses are made according to the optometrist's prescription, determining exactly where the lenses should be placed in relation to the pupils of the eyes, assisting the customer in selecting appropriate frames or lens treatments (such as tints or nonreflective coatings), preparing work orders for the optical laboratory technician, and sometimes selling optical goods.
Opticians should be good at dealing with people and with handling administrative tasks. They work with the customer to determine which type of frame is best suited to the person's needs. Considerations include the customer's habits, facial characteristics, comfort, and the thickness of the corrective lenses.
The dispensing optician prepares work orders for the ophthalmic laboratory so the technicians can grind the lenses and insert them into the frames. Opticians are responsible for recording lens prescriptions, lens size, and the style and color of the frames.
After the lenses return from the lab, the optician makes sure the glasses are made according to the prescription and that they fit the customer correctly. Opticians use small hand tools and precision instruments to make minor adjustments to the frames. They may also repair or refit broken eyeglass frames. Most dispensing opticians work with prescription eyeglasses, but some work with contact lenses. Opticians must exercise great precision, skill, and patience in fitting contact lenses. They measure the curvature of the cornea, and, following the prescription, prepare complete specifications for the optical technician who manufactures the lens. They must teach the customer how to remove, adjust to, and care for the lenses, a process that can take several weeks.