Training and Education

In BC, the titles “optician” “dispensing optician” and “contact lens fitter” (and any titles derived thereof, such as “student optician” “optical dispenser” or “dispenser”) are reserved titles. In addition, contact lens fitting and automated refracting are restricted activities. Anyone wishing to practice opticianry, identify with these titles, and/or conduct restricted activities in BC is required to register with COBC. 

Becoming an optician

The following opticianry programs are accredited; this means they are recognized by COBC and NACOR as providing adequate training for the purpose of becoming licensed to practice in BC:

  • Douglas College
    • Located in BC’s Lower Mainland
    • Offers training in opticianry, contact lens fitting, and refraction in a combined 2-year program.
  • Stenberg College
    • Located in BC’s Lower Mainland
    • Offers training in opticianry, contact lens fitting, and refraction in a combined 2-year program.
  • Northern Alberta Institute of Technology
    • Available online across Canada
    • Offers a 2-year opticianry training program, with optional add-on programs for contact lens fitting and refraction (each 1 year in length).
    • French language offering available.

The following programs offered outside of BC are also accredited:

NOTE: There are currently no accredited opticianry programs shorter than 2 years in length. Accredited programs must be completed in full.

Once you have successfully completed an accredited opticianry program, the next step is writing the national licensing examination(s). 

National licensing examinations

The national opticianry licensing examinations are offered by the National Alliance of Canadian Optician Regulators (NACOR). The exams are held across Canada in different provinces at different times of the year, and applicants may challenge their exam(s) in any province. Visit the NACOR website to see the most up-to-date list of dates and venues for upcoming exams.

NACOR currently offers two licensing exams:

  • Optical Sciences 1 – Eyeglasses Examination
  • Optical Sciences 2 – Advanced Contact Lens Examination

To become licensed as an optician and contact lens fitter, an applicant must pass both exams. To become licensed as an optician only, the applicant only needs to pass Optical Sciences 1.

Applicants must apply through NACOR to challenge the exam(s). Applicants requiring accommodations are encouraged to discuss their requests with NACOR well in advance of their exam date. More information about the exam process and protocols can be found in the Candidate’s Examination Handbook.

What do the licensing exams cover?

The national licensing exams are based on the National Competencies for Canadian Opticians, which outline the skills and knowledge required of any individual entering the profession. These same competencies are used as a foundation for all accredited opticianry education programs, and for COBC’s Continuing Competency Program.