An optician certification is a way of showing that a certain skillset and knowledge level has been attained. Opticians can use certifications as a way of obtaining employment or negotiating a higher pay rate. An optician certification is not the same as a license, which is required in 21 states. A certification and license are not one in the same, even though some may share similarities. Many employers will look to hire opticians who have certifications as it indicates that adequate training and experience has been attained. It is a way of showing competence and also lends credibility to an eyewear facility.
There is one organization that has stepped to the forefront in the field of opticianry. The American Board of Opticianry & National Contact Lens Examiners (ABO-NCLE) provides certifications to opticians and has become a nationally recognized name in the industry. The ABO and NCLE are considered sister organizations that work in conjunction with one another. Close to 100,000 certifications have been awarded since the organization’s inception. Each certification exam is carefully designed by a panel of industry experts. These tests are reflective of the current practice and industry standards.
The ABO certifications first emerged in 1976. For over 40 years, opticians all over the country have been able to earn certifications that can help their professional career. Certification exams must be passed and there are periods in which opticians must work in order to move on to a higher level of certification. There are three levels of certifications opticians can earn through the ABO-NCLE. These are designed to be earned sequentially as opticians can rise through the ranks of their profession.
It should be noted that there are two separate exams under the basic certification distinction. There is an ABO exam that is referred to as the National Opticianry Competency Examination (NOCE). There is also a Contact Lens Registry Examination (CLRE). These separate examinations are designed to certify separate skillsets as there are different procedures that come with working with glasses and contact lenses.
- ABO Basic Exam – This test is broken down into six parts and tests opticians on ophthalmic procedures, instrumentation, dispensing, laws and regulations and a variety of other topics.
- NCLE Basic Exam – This test is divided into eight parts and has a lot to do with fitting, dispensing and pre-fitting contact lenses.
This level of certification is distributed to opticians who display more advanced knowledge of this field. Opticians cannot take the advanced certification exam until they have held a basic certification for a period of three years. There are also separate certification exams for glasses and contact lenses. The ABO advanced certification exam differs from the NCLE advanced certification exam.
- ABO Advanced Exam – This exam requires opticians to analyze prescriptions, assess medical abnormalities, evaluate eyewear parameters, and show a working knowledge of how to use ophthalmic instrumentation.
- NCLE Advanced Exam – This exam deals with the prefitting and preparation of contact lenses. There are also questions on evaluating diagnostic lenses, lens fit performance and patient instruction and delivery procedures.
Once an optician has earned an advanced certification, the next step is to become a Master in Ophthalmic Optics. There is no certification exam to become a Master, although an optician must meet certain criteria. The first is that an Advanced Certification must be held for a minimum of three years. There is another requirement as opticians can choose from any one of the following to satisfy that part of the criteria:
- Published at least two articles that are considered Advanced Level III and ABO-approved
- Experience as an ABO-approved speaker in two courses that are Advanced Level III
- Combination of one published Advanced Level III article and ABO speaker in one course
The same criteria applies to opticians looking to earn Master status in Contact Lens Technology. The published articles must also be Advanced Level III and NCLE approved. Being a speaker also requires that the course be NCLE approved.
Each certification lasts for a period of three years. Prior to that three-year period concluding, opticians are expected to apply for recertification. This does not require opticians to take another certification exam. However, they must show proof of continuing education credits during that three-year period. There is also a fee that needs to be paid for rectification.
Preparation for obtaining a State License
In the 21 states that require opticians to obtain a license, there are state boards that are in charge of administering licensing tests. Almost every state that requires a license uses the ABO-NCLE exams as the framework for their state licensing tests. Meanwhile, a fourth of the states that require licenses also require ABO-NCLE certifications for opticians moving into the state. This mandate indicates the strong reputation of the ABO-NCLE and its certifications. Moreover, earning these certifications will prepare opticians for any future exams they are required to take.
Those who earn an ABO or NCLE Certification will be able to do more than just put that accomplishment on their resume. Upon completing all the necessary requirements, opticians will be issued a certification that can be displayed at their workplace. There is also a certification pin issued and opticians can wear it to work on a daily basis. It is also common for opticians to incorporate the ABO or NCLE certified logo on their business cards. This is a way of showing off the skillset and knowledge base that has been earned through hard work and experience.
Optician Certification Training
There are a number of post-secondary schools offering optician training programs. These are offered at community colleges, training institutes and vocational schools throughout the country. The programs typically teach all the necessary skills opticians will need to become certified by passing the basic examination. The length of each training program differs and is stipulated by the individual institution. The cost of tuition also differs, although many training programs offer financial aid options.