Optical Technician

Optical technicians prepare lenses in accordance with prescriptions from optometrists and ophthalmologists. Spectacles and contact lenses are important visual aids to anyone with visual problems. Optical technicians render a valuable service by producing high quality spectacles and contact lenses.

Optical technicians receive specific instructions concerning the lenses, from optometrists or ophthalmologists. Prescriptions specify details about the strength of the lenses, their size and shape, location of the optical centre and the position of bifocal segments, if required, the type of frame, etc.

They study prescriptions carefully and decide on the raw materials and processes to be used. They select the right kind of lens blanks and examine the blank lens for defects in the glass, curvature, thickness and size. The lens is then cut with a machine to produce the prescribed curve, and then buffed and polished.

The surfacing, setting of curves, smoothing and polishing, shaping and glazing of lenses and the final checking, all need to be done carefully. The lenses are measured, marked and cut to fit the frames and the finished lenses are then mounted into the frames.

Optical technicians also repair damaged lenses and frames and prepare contact lenses. They work in a well-equipped laboratory, which may be noisy at times due to the polishing and grinding machinery.

Personal Requirements

  • enjoy precision work
  • patient and accurate
  • a perfectionist, as only perfect results are acceptable
  • mechanical and technical aptitude
  • finger dexterity and a steady hand
  • good eye-hand coordination
  • good eyesight

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics, Physical Science
Recommended subjects: Life Sciences

  • Pass matric with a Bachelor's pass
  • Meet the admission requirements (APS) set by the university
  • All applications for admission to MBChB and Medical degrees are subject to selection.
  • Due to the limited number of spaces available, only a small percentage of applicants are admitted.

What to Study

Diploma: N.Dip: Optical Dispensing - CPUT

Training (from 3 to 5 years) is obtained in the work situation. Optical technicians are then qualified and free to specialise in a particular field. After complying with all the necessary requirements, qualified optical technicians have to register with the Interim National Medical and Dental Council of South Africa.

A series of short courses in the form of single subject modules is organised by the Ophthalmic Prescription Manufacturers’ Association.

The Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers produces learning booklets.


  • optical laboratories
  • manufacturers of optical instruments
  • optometrists
  • ophthalmologists
  • self-employment, with enough experience and capital, can open own business

Further Information

South African Optometric Association
561 Nupen Crescent
Halfway House
Extension 12
Tel: (011) 805-4517 

Getting Started

  • try to obtain vacation or part-time work in an optical shop
  • arrange to speak to an optical technician about this type of career

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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