Dispensing opticians interpret prescriptions from optometrists and ophthalmologists (eye specialists) for glasses or contact lenses, assemble and fit glasses, and sell customers frames and lenses.
Dispensing opticians with up to five years' experience usually earn
$42K-$60K per year
Senior dispensing opticians usually earn
$60K-$85K per year
Source: ADONZ, 2021.
Pay for dispensing opticians varies depending on experience and responsibilities.
- Dispensing opticians in training usually start on minimum wage to $43,000 a year.
- Dispensing opticians with one to four years' experience usually earn between $43,000 and $60,000.
- Senior dispensing opticians usually earn between $60,000 and $85,000.
- Dispensing opticians who own and run their own practice can earn up to $85,000 or more.
Source: Association of Dispensing Opticians New Zealand, 'ADONZ Wage Survey 2020', 2021.
- 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
- order prescription lenses for customers
- shape and fit lenses to frames.
Skills and knowledge
Dispensing opticians need to have knowledge of:
- frames and lenses and how they can be combined to suit customer'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, but may also work part time
- work in glasses retailers, workshops and showrooms.
What's the job really like?
Dispensing optician video
Lynn talks about what it’s like to be a dispensing optician – 3.08 mins.
Specsavers is an optometry. They are medical-focused as well as retail. So if you're coming in to see an optician they'll be doing a vision check on your eyes as well as an eye health check and your prescription for your glasses. So as a dispensing optician I would be finding something that works for them with their prescription and then getting a feel for what the expectations of this frame and lenses are as well.
I love it, yes.
So what's important about our job is the fact that we can actually read prescriptions and then also we can do certain functions of the optometrist to help out. We can be dilating the pupils, we can be doing visual fields or perhaps even a pre-test.
So I work with the optometrists as well as dispensing opticians and the optical assistants as well. The optical assistants don't have all the knowledge that the dispensing opticians have.
I work eight hours a day and I’m rostered on between 8:30 to 6. So our work environment is quite busy. It can vary so much but a typical day would be arriving customers in for their eye tests. Also you could be pre-testing, doing visual fields, maybe even a bit of admin work in between.
You need lots of patience in this role because you'll be dealing with lots and lots of customers and just a passion for medical. It can be stressful if you've got like challenging customers in front of you, say it's like maybe a language barrier or you've got to problem solve a lot of the time, especially when someone has a problem with their glasses - you may have to work out what's the best for this customer.
I like that I get to interact with different people from all walks of life and then also the joys that I get from this job is like when you prescribe glasses for the first time, whether it be to an adult or to a kid, that always gets me excited because kids show their emotions more than adults and they'll be like, wow, I can see and that's what the whole drama has been about, you know.
To get into this job you don't necessarily need to have experience. You start as optical assistant and then from there they will take you through all the steps and they put you on all the courses. Courses are provided through ACOD which is Australian Dispensing Optician. So you're working full time as you study and the courses are all online. The duration of the course is up to two years. Once you've completed it, you can register yourself as a dispensing optician.
It's constantly learning new things and the new medical terminology and things evolve so quickly. There's new equipment that comes out and these frames that come out and fashion keeps changing. It's those sort of things that really keeps me engaged and interested. It definitely just drives me.
The medical environment always needs people so this is a really good role. If you're passionate about medical, do it.
To become a dispensing optician you need to:
- get a job working as a trainee dispensing optician
- complete the Certificate IV in Optical Dispensing New Zealand through the Australasian College of Optical Dispensing
- register with the Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians Board and gain 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, biology, English, health education, physics and maths are useful.
Dispensing opticians need to be:
- friendly and helpful
- polite and observant
- positive and supportive
- practical and organised
- good at sales and customer service.
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 current practising certificate.
Find out more about training
- Australasian College of Optical Dispensing
- firstname.lastname@example.org - www.acod.edu.au
- Association of Dispensing Opticians of New Zealand
- (07) 824 1044 - email@example.com - www.adonz.co.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
High 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 as people spend more time looking at computer and mobile phone screens.
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. There are more practices in larger cities but there is low staff turnover and more competition for roles.
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. Some work at separate optical dispensing practices or at optical wholesalers and laboratories.
- Association of Dispensing Opticians of New Zealand Incorporated, ‘ADONZ Wage Survey 2020’, accessed April 2021, (www.adonz.co.nz).
- Association of Dispensing Opticians of New Zealand Incorporated website, accessed April 2021, (www.adonz.co.nz).
- Association of Dispensing Opticians New Zealand, ‘Students’, accessed April 2021, (www.adonz.co.nz).
- Bendall, H, administrator, Association of Dispensing Opticians New Zealand, careers.govt.nz interview, April 2021.
- Karauria, M, 'Myopia Rising: Children Should be Checked for Shortsightedness', 29 September 2021, (www.nzherald.co.nz).
- RNZ, 'Looking into the Distance to Combat Short-Sightedness', 3 February 2021, (www.rnz.co.nz).
- Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
(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. With further training, dispensing opticians may progress to become optometrists.
Last updated 7 May 2021