Optical assistant

See how to become an optical assistant with our career guide

Did you know?

Being an optical assistant gives you greater responsibility than the usual retail job. If you’ve got a flair for fashion, an interest in science and technology, an eye for what suits people or a desire to help in healthcare, this job could be a good look for you!

Eyecare is an important way to care for your health. As an optical assistant you’ll give customers a warm welcome and help them choose the right products for both eye care and eyewear.

You’ll help people feel confident about their sense of style and you may be taking part in the vision healthcare side of things too, like completing eye health screenings.

It’s all leading to a bright future in eyecare and retail.

What entry qualifications and training do you need?

School, college and training

You may be expected to have a standard level of general education, with passing grades 9-3/A*-D in GCSEs. These will help you follow verbal and written instructions, and help with understanding the different pricing of glasses and other eyewear.

However, employers may feel that customer service experience and being willing to learn are more important than exam grades. So if you’re looking for retail jobs after leaving school, things are looking up!

Apprenticeships

You can get into this job through completing a retail optical apprenticeship, and these are available nationwide with many of the big high street optician brands out there.

Optical apprenticeships can take around a year to complete, offering a paid salary and structured training. This results in an industry recognised qualification, such as a Level 2 retail optical assistant.

You may find that your academic qualifications don’t matter as much as a willingness to learn and give good customer service – some optical retail apprenticeships don’t specify qualification requirements.

Find out more about how to succeed in an optical apprenticeship.

Work experience

It can help your application if you have previously done work experience in a customer service environment, because this is a retail position.

Any work experience which shows your communication skills and customer service skills is useful, like working in a restaurant or shop serving customers, or taking calls in a call centre.

If you have some sales experience, that can help you stand out to employers. It shows you can connect with people and help them choose products and services to buy in a way that is persuasive but not off-putting!

Examples of relevant work experience include:

  • Work shadowing (even if it’s just for a day)
  • Work placements in a company
  • Work placements on a college or university course
  • Part-time, full-time or summer jobs

Volunteering and extra-curricular activities

Employers may be impressed to see volunteering on your CV, and any volunteering experience related to healthcare is especially useful. Maybe you have volunteered to help vulnerable people like the homeless or elderly people? Volunteering helps you meet and communicate with people from all walks of life, which is really useful in a retail environment.

Volunteering – and, in fact, life in general – can help you meet people who have eye problems so you can better understand their eyecare needs. You may not have 20/20 vision yourself, in which case you’ll know exactly how someone feels when they’re coming into a shop to choose comfortable and flattering eyewear they’ll be happy wearing day in, day out!

What skills do you need?

Useful skills to highlight to your employer when applying for eyecare jobs include:

  • Positive attitude and energy
  • Customer service skills
  • Sales skills
  • Great communication skills so you can talk to customers and listen to their needs when helping them choose products
  • A sense of fashion and an eye for detail
  • Tact and diplomacy
  • A willingness to learn

Vocational qualifications and work experience will help you build these skills over time.

What does your working day look like?

You’ll be working in a shop – most likely a high street optician – so you’ll be providing customer care and quite often standing on your feet in busy periods. This isn’t a desk job.

Example job responsibilities:

  • Greeting customers and making them feel welcome
  • Selling customers eyewear solutions that best suit their fashion sense and needs
  • Booking eye examinations
  • Completing eye health screenings under supervision
  • Measuring eyewear frames
  • General shop duties such as ensuring the premises are clean, tidy and inviting.

Your first steps into eyecare jobs

Optical assistant jobs are advertised under different job titles. When you’re looking on job boards, look for the following types of job:

  • Optical apprentice (retail)
  • Optical assistant
  • Opticians assistant

ABDO College

ABDO College offers you and your team courses which allow every staff member to advance. Start with the Optical Assistant course for a great introduction to optics, as well as an ideal way to formalise knowledge gained in practice. Move on to the Senior Optical Assistant course to develop and grow your knowledge and broaden … Continue reading ABDO College

Stepper

Campaign aim: to support the optical industry and highlight Stepper as an ethical and committed frames company. Peter Reeve, Managing Director Stepper (UK) limited says, “Delivering comfort and fit that delights spectacle wearers requires good product and the best dispensing skills, so encouraging professionalism in eyecare early in a career delivers the best possible outcomes … Continue reading Stepper

Woodspeen

Campaign aim: to develop Woodspeen Training’s profile within the optical professions and attract young people to optical apprenticeships. With over 30 years’ experience, Woodspeen Training is a well-established provider of Level 2 – Level 5 Apprenticeship and skills programmes. In the past year it has also begun to offer optical assistant apprenticeships. Kay Bagshaw FBDO … Continue reading Woodspeen

WCSM

The Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers (WCSM) sounds ancient but has a modern purpose. Its mission is to support better vision for all. The Company was founded in 1629 and is living proof that eye health is so much more than a presence on the High Street. The name could be misleading as WCSM members … Continue reading WCSM

STEM

Campaign aim: highlight the STEM ambassador programme to eye care practitioners (ECPs) and encourage them to sign up and visit schools. Careers in Eyecare has developed a range of supportive materials to facilitate ECPs to work in schools, including: How to become a STEM ambassador  Case study: Nick’s experience of his first STEM sessions STEM … Continue reading STEM

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