Dispensing, Feature

How to become an optical dispenser

A meeting of Australia’s dispensers held during the O=MEGA19 conference in July 2019 highlighted that the profession suffers from lack of awareness outside the wider ophthalmic sector.

In an effort to improve dispensing’s profile in Australia, it was suggested that a clear pathway needs to be presented on how to join the profession’s ranks, particularly to young people making decisions about their career.

For people looking to enter the profession, what do they need to do?

Optical dispensers interpret prescriptions that have been created by ophthalmologists and optometrists, and subsequently provide customers with suitable optical solutions. They require an extensive knowledge of spectacle lenses, frames and other optical products, coupled with excellent communication and sales skills.

In terms of training, the Certificate IV in Optical Dispensing is considered the minimum standard required.

TAFE NSW, TAFE Queensland and RMIT University in Victoria are Australia’s major institutions that currently offer the course. The Australasian College of Optical Dispensing (ACOD) also runs a Certificate IV course in both Australia and New Zealand, with training rooms located across several cities in both countries.

Instead of studying full-time, there are also options for people already working as an optical assistant to undertake the qualification as a traineeship.

The course is not just limited to the mechanics that go into creating a pair of spectacles. Students are also taught sales techniques, communication in community services and other skills practical to a workplace environment.

Employers are now also keen for dispensers to go beyond the Certificate IV and pursue continuing professional development (CPD) throughout their career.

Organisations in Australia offering CDP for dispensers include the Australian Dispensing Opticians Association (ADOA), ACOD and the Academy of Advanced Ophthalmic Optics. The annual Specsavers Dispensing Conference has also become a major event on the dispensing calendar open to the entire profession.