careers optical assistant

How to become an Optical Assistant: Career Guide

Careers in Eyecare Science & Health careers

See how to become an Optical Assistant with our career guide. You don’t need a degree and you can do Optical Retail Apprenticeships to get started.

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.

How much money can you make as a optical assistant?

£14,000 – £16,000 (UK average)

Labour market information for 2017 says you can earn on average between £15,000 and £20,000 a year as an optical assistant in the UK.

Your starting salary can vary because of factors like level of experience, training, or location. Your salary as an optical assistant will increase over time as you build skills, knowledge and experience.

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.

Career progression

With time and experience you could increase your level of responsibility and salary, becoming a retail optical assistant. From there you can work your way up to managerial level. It’s all great retail experience, and you’ll have the added benefit of getting insight into the world of optical health.

What experience do you need for eyecare jobs?

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 for eyecare jobs?

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 an optical assistant do?

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

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