Dispensing opticians interpret prescriptions from optometrists and ophthalmologists (eye specialists) for glasses or contact lenses, sell customers suitable frames and lens systems, and fit and assemble glasses.
Dispensing opticians with up to five years' experience usually earn
$39K-$46K per year
Senior dispensing opticians usually earn
$48K-$85K per year
Source: Assn of Dispensing Opticians NZ, 2015.
Pay for dispensing opticians varies depending on experience and location of the practice.
- Dispensing opticians in training usually start on about minimum wage to $43,000 a year.
- After one to four years' experience they usually earn between $43,000 and $46,000.
- Senior dispensing opticians can earn between $48,000 and $60,000.
- Dispensing opticians who own and run their own practice can earn up to $85,000.
Source: Association of Dispensing Opticians New Zealand, 'Wage and Work Survey', 2015.
- PAYE.net.nz website – use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
- Employment New Zealand website - information about minimum wage rates
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Dispensing opticians may do some or all of the following:
- recommend and sell suitable frames, lenses, sunglasses and eye care products
- fit, adjust and repair glasses
- arrange for lenses to be made to suit clients' prescriptions
- shape and fit lenses to frames.
Some dispensing opticians run their own business.
Skills and knowledge
Dispensing opticians need to have knowledge of:
- frames and lenses and how they can be combined to suit each client's needs
- fashion trends in frames and what frames suit each face shape
- optical products such as solutions for contact lenses, glasses, lenses, frames and sunglasses
- the eye and how it works.
Those running their own business need business management skills.
- usually work regular business hours
- work in glasses retailers, workshops and showrooms.
What's the job really like?
Working in dispensing optometry suits Zoe Ross down to the ground. It combines her science background with her love of fashion – and her newly discovered sales skills.
What do you like about your job?
"You get to interact with people on a day-to-day basis, which is really fun. And the fashion side of frames is quite fun as well – glasses are more of an accessory now, and it's really interesting to see how the fashion side of frames changes from year to year."
What skills do you need for this job?
'You need a good memory. There's new technology in terms of the lenses that are available, and there are many types of lenses and frames. You need to understand how they all fit together.
"And being able to talk to people, having an eye for what suits people. You have to build that relationship and then you can go, 'I know you love this frame, but let's just try this other one too; it may be a little bit more flattering.'
"It's about being able to provide clients with the experience that makes them choose you to come back to – rather than shop around and go to somebody else."
To become a dispensing optician you need to:
- get a job working as a trainee dispensing optician
- complete the Certificate in Optical Dispensing through the Australasian College of Optical Dispensing
- register with the Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians Board and pass an Annual Practising Certificate.
- Australasian College of Optical Dispensing website - information about the Certificate in Optical Dispensing
- Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians Board website - information about Annual Practising Certificates
There are no specific secondary education requirements to become a dispensing optician. However, English, health, maths, physics and biology are useful.
Dispensing opticians need to be:
- friendly and helpful
- polite and observant
- positive, supportive and able to inspire confidence in others
- practical and organised
- good at sales and customer service.
“To be a dispensing optician you need passion, patience and understanding. You also need to understand maths and physics. But above all you really have to care about every client who comes in the door, and believe they deserve the best vision they can get.”
President, International Opticians Association
Useful experience for dispensing opticians includes:
- work as an optometrist's or pharmacist's assistant
- experience in an optical laboratory
- customer service work.
Dispensing opticians need to have good eyesight (with or without corrective lenses).
Dispensing opticians need to be registered with the Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians Board and hold a practising certificate.
Find out more about training
What are the chances of getting a job?
Strong demand for dispensing opticians
Demand for dispensing opticians is good because:
- New Zealand's population is ageing, so more people are likely to need glasses or contact lenses
- short-sightedness is increasing – possibly because people are spending more time using computers
- glasses are a popular fashion accessory.
According to the Census, 933 dispensing opticians worked in New Zealand in 2018.
Demand for dispensing opticians stronger in certain regions
There is strong demand for dispensing opticians in smaller cities and rural areas, particularly in the South Island, as employers find it harder to recruit in these areas. Although there are more practices in larger cities, there is more competition for roles and low turnover.
Your chances of securing a dispensing optician job are best if you check the Association of Dispensing Opticians of New Zealand website for vacancies, and approach employers directly.
Most dispensing opticians work with optometrists
Most dispensing opticians work in partnership with an optometrist, although some work at separate optical dispensing practices or at optical wholesalers and laboratories.
- Agnew, K, Manager, Bailey Nelson Optics, Careers New Zealand interview, June 2017
- Association of Dispensing Opticians of New Zealand, '2015 Wage and Work Survey', 2017.
- Bendall, H, administrator, Association of Dispensing Opticians of New Zealand, Careers New Zealand interview, June 2017.
- Gudsell, K, dispensing optician, Geraldine Booth Optics, Careers New Zealand interview, June 2017.
- Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
- Yan, J, optometrist, Focal Point Optometrist, Careers New Zealand interview, June 2017.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Dispensing opticians may progress into management positions, or set up their own practices. They may also become optical sales representatives.
Last updated 15 September 2020