Optometry Careers

What a wide variety of optical jobs there are! From the design, manufacture and sales of fashion eyewear, lenses and everyday glasses through to lenses and equipment for medical and industrial uses, there are many optical jobs available with different levels of skills and experience required.

Firstly, there is the design and manufacture of eyewear, lenses and optical products for medical, research, industrial and military applications. Here optical jobs exist for optical engineers or designers or design engineers who are normally engineers with a mechanical engineering degree or a physical science degree (especially physics) who have then completed postgraduate studies in optics, optical diagnostics, optical measurements and/or fibre optics.

Optical vacancies for these optical jobs exist in industrial and commercial organisations involved in research, design and manufacture of optical products and equipment. As well as eyewear, they may make and/or assemble optical filters, prisms, lenses and mirrors using a variety of process such as cutting, polishing, laminating and drilling. Components are supplied to scientific, military, aviation, electronic, medical, printing, laser, radiation, astronomy, photographic, ophthalmic, television and surveillance organisations and industries. You may also find an optical vacancy in universities and colleges researching and/or teaching optical sciences. To be successful at this level you will need to be highly detailed and accurate with your work and have experience in optical design, optical analysis and optical test techniques.

Once products are designed and manufactured they need to be brought to the market. This creates optical jobs for marketing and sales teams across the range of optical products directed at the specific markets for the products for example: ophthalmologists, optometrists, opticians and retail optical outlets for eye testing and measuring equipment and prescription eyewear; ophthalmologists, eye clinics and hospitals for laser equipment, etc. Fashion eyewear and sunglasses are marketed to a range of wholesale and retail outlets.

The first contact for members of the public with any optical person is normally the retail optician store in the shopping centre or high street. Here there are many optical jobs available including:

  • Optometrists
  • Dispensing opticians
  • Contact Lens Opticians
  • Optical assistants
  • Optical/Retail Manager
Optometrists complete a three-year degree and then one year of salaried clinical experience before sitting an exam to register with the General Optical Council. Once qualified and registered they are considered trained to perform eye examinations and eyesight tests so that they can prescribe corrective spectacles and lenses. They are also able to detect the general health conditions that may show in the eye (such as diabetes, MS, etc.) and to refer these patients to the appropriate healthcare practitioner. Optometrists may also specialise (for example in refractive surgery) and practice in a hospital as a specialist optometrist. Other optical vacancies for optometrists can be found in NHS and private eye clinics and opticians. Optometrists may work on a full or part time, contract or locum basis and will work with patients of all types and ages. 

Dispensing opticians are trained and registered to help patients fit their spectacles or contact lenses and to give advice regarding the various types and the care of these, but they are not qualified to perform tests or examinations on the eye. Finding an optical job as a dispensing optician is the same as for optometrists.

Optical Assistants are usually found in private optometry practices, eye clinics and some government agencies. These are quite challenging optical jobs as they involve: greeting the patient, helping them to feel comfortable and allay any fears; sometimes helping them to complete a questionnaire; preparing the examination area; explaining any procedures; administering eye drops, if required; carrying out simple examinations such as eye measurements; assisting the optometrist where required; performing administrative duties such as recording and updating patient histories, handling insurance forms, documenting prescriptions and assessments, filing and photocopying; managing stock; dispensing eyewear (with training) and assisting patients with their choice; sometimes assisting in the laboratory to set lenses and repair and/or adjust frames as required; making appointments for patients; and generally ensuring the smooth running of the practice.

In some busy optical practices, the optometrists will divide the work into clinical and non-clinical thereby freeing themselves to give full professional attention to the patient. They will then employ an optical/retail manager to run the business side of the practice. These are business management positions to ensure the growth of the business, manage the staff, the finances, the stock and all other non-clinical affairs.

Other optical jobs include:

  • Optical technicians who make the contact and spectacle lenses according to the prescription from the ophthalmologist or optometrist. They select the clear lens then cut, buff and polish it to the set requirements. Optical vacancies for technicians are found in optical laboratories, optical instrument manufacturers and private optical practices. Much of the training is on the job with the option to study part time for the Spectacle Makers examination leading to the Optical Technician Certificate SMC (Tech)
  • Ophthalmologists - these are medical doctors who have completed their medical degree and the two year foundation course and have then chosen to specialise in eyes. They can either apply for the seven year ophthalmic specialist training organised by the Royal College of Ophthalmologists or they can enter medical ophthalmology where they complete a further two year core training phase (after their foundation phase) leading to membership with the Royal College of Physicians (MRCP) and then a further four years of medical ophthalmology training overseen by a joint committee of the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Ophthalmologists and run by the Joint Royal Colleges of Physicians Training Board (JRCPTB)

To be successful in any optical job you will need:

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  • Excellent communication and inter-personal skills
  • Good hand to eye co-ordination
  • Fine attention to detail and accuracy in your work
  • A passion to help improve vision and sight both for people and equipment
  • The ability to work effectively as part of a team
  • Strong organisational skills
  • A good understanding of business and sales

So, if you are enthusiastic regarding the dynamics of vision and sight and want to make a difference in this field, take a good look at one of the optical jobs available

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