Frequently asked questions about:


Is the opticianry profession “deregulated” in BC? No. Opticianry remains a regulated profession. As of 2010, the activity of dispensing eyeglasses is not restricted in BC, which means that individuals who are not regulated can also perform this activity. However, these individuals cannot refer to themselves as “opticians,” as this title is reserved for individuals licensed with the College of Opticians of British Columbia.
Restricted activities do not dictate whether or not a health profession is regulated. Some regulated health professionals, such as physiotherapists, have no restricted activities—but they are still required to maintain the professional standards set by their regulator. Unlicensed individuals who sell eyeglasses are not accountable to the same standards as opticians, and they cannot perform the restricted activities of contact lens fitting and independent automated refraction that some opticians can perform.

Can I work as an optician without being a registrant of COBC?

Individuals who are not registered with COBC cannot use protected titles like “optician,” “dispensing optician,” or “contact lens fitter,” or any variation or translation of those titles (e.g., “optical dispenser,” “opticien”). Although opticians perform the unrestricted activity of dispensing eyeglasses, an individual cannot claim to be an optician simply because they dispense eyeglasses. Being an optician requires meeting all of the requirements under the Health Professions Act, the College Bylaws, and COBC’s Standards of Practice—including maintaining your skills and knowledge through COBC’s mandatory Continuing Competency Program. These regulations and standards are set to ensure that the public receives a consistent level of care from all opticians. This level of care cannot be guaranteed by an unlicensed individual selling eyeglasses.

What does COBC do for me?

According to the Health Professions Act, the role of a regulatory college is to ensure public safety—not to provide a service to its registrants. In other words, COBC serves the interests of the BC public rather than the interests of opticians. Our work is focused on ensuring that opticians provide safe and competent healthcare services and that there is accountability if an optician’s practice puts a member of the public at risk.
With that being said, there are also many benefits to being registered with COBC. Using the title of “optician” and hanging your Certificate(s) of Registration in your practice environment signal to the public that you have achieved a certain level of education, you’ve passed a licensing exam, you maintain your skills and knowledge through continuing education, and you are committed to maintaining high standards of care. Depending on your registration category, you may be authorized to perform restricted activities. You may also be able to offer direct billing to your clients.
Additional benefits are available to opticians who register with the Opticians Association of Canada (OAC)—the profession association for opticians across the country. While registration with COBC is mandatory, membership with the OAC is optional. The OAC advocates on behalf of opticians.
Learn more about the relationship between COBC and the OAChere.

Does COBC have a job board that I can post on, or that I can use to find an employee?
No. Assisting opticians with employment is outside the scope of COBC’s public protection mandate. However, we can recommend the following resources to those offering or seeking employment in the optical industry:


How do I register as an optician in BC?

To become an optician, you must complete an accredited training program or the PLAR process, then pass the licensing exam(s) and submit all of the documentation detailed in our Supplemental Package for Registration.

I did not graduate from an accredited institution in Canada. Can I apply for registration?

Yes. COBC uses the Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) process to ensure that applicants who did not complete an accredited Canadian education program have the same skills and knowledge as those who did. Learn more about this process here.

How do I become certified to conduct independent automated refractions? To become certified in automated refracting, you must first complete an approved program of study. Alternatively, if you have optometric training and/or experience from another country, you may be eligible to complete the PLAR process for refracting.
If you are already licensed and wish to add the certification, you can submit a “status change” application through your online account. If you are not yet licensed, simply ensure that you select the applicable registration category when submitting your initial application.
When you become certified, you may also be required to complete a short exam on the regulations related to conducting automated refractions in BC.

What kind of insurance coverage do I need?

For your own protection, you must hold professional liability insurance for a minimum of $1,000,000 per occurrence/claim at all times as a practicing optician. Insurance is not required for non-practicing registrants.

Why do I need a criminal record (re-)check? Learn more about criminal record check requirements here.

What is “non-practicing” status? Non-practicing is a registration category available to COBC registrants who meet certain criteria. The annual fee for non-practicing is cheaper than the practicing fee, because these registrants are not currently working within the field of opticianry. Most opticians with non-practicing status are on medical or parental leave. Some are studying or working temporarily in an unrelated field.
Changing your status to non-practicing is a great way to stay connected to your profession, even while you’re taking time away. Non-practicing registrants are still required to complete continuing education, which ensures that they maintain their skills and knowledge.
Non-practicing status is not intended for individuals practicing under the supervision of another eye care professional.

When am I required to renew my licence?

COBC’s annual licence renewal period runs from mid-February through March 31 each year. All opticians in BC must renew their licensure during this time, regardless of the date of their initial registration. Renewal notices are sent by email throughout February and March.

How do I transfer my license to another province or territory in Canada? Thanks to the Labour Mobility Agreement that exists among Canadian optician regulators, it’s easy for opticians to move between provinces and have their credentials recognized.
If you are currently licensed in BC and plan to move to another province, let us know. We’ll prepare a “Letter of Good Standing” that can be provided to your new regulatory body as proof that you meet all the requirements for licensure in BC. Your new regulator will also require you to submit a registration application and pay fees, as applicable. You will need to refer to their website or contact them directly for details.

I have been suspended. How do I reinstate my licence?

Learn more about suspension and reinstatement here.


What is renewal? More information on renewal can be found here.

How do I renew? Step-by-step instructions for the renewal process can be found in our Renewal Guidebook.

How do I renew if I do not have a computer?

You can go to your local public library, ask a friend or family member, or call COBC for assistance. You may also be able to complete the renewal process using a mobile device (e.g., a cell phone); however, our system is not optimized for mobile, so the process may be less intuitive and the text very small.

Is it safe to put my private information and credit card number into the online renewal application?

Yes. COBC ensures the security of your private information, including your credit card number. Our payment system does not store or track credit card information, nor is this information visible to staff. Personal information is kept in a secure, internal, password-protected database, which is not hosted online.

Can I change the status of my licence during renewal? Yes. Use the CHANGE STATUS tab of your online account to renew and change status at the same time. This includes upgrading your licence (e.g., adding a certification to conduct independent automated refractions) or switching from practicing to non-practicing (or vice versa).

My Continuing Competency Program (CCP) is past due. Can I still renew my registration? No. You must complete your CCP requirements to be eligible to renew your licence.

Do I need professional liability insurance to renew? You must hold professional liability insurance for a minimum of $1,000,000 per occurrence/claim at all times as a practicing optician. Insurance is not required for non-practicing registrants.
In your renewal application, you will be asked to “declare” that you are appropriately insured. You do not need to submit proof of your coverage unless requested.

Can my employer pay my renewal fees?

Yes. If your employer is paying your fees, they will need to select one of the payment options listed in the online renewal application. They can make a credit card payment by entering their credit card information directly into the applicable fields within the application, or they can send an e-Transfer on your behalf; however, they must do so within 48 hours of your renewal application being submitted. (They must also include your name and licence number in the “memo” section of the e-Transfer, to ensure COBC can match the payment to the registrant.)

How do I know if my renewal has gone through? After you submit your renewal application, you will receive a confirmation email. Be sure to review this email and follow any instructions it provides (e.g., for submission of e-Transfer payment, if applicable).
Once your renewal has been processed in COBC’s systems, you will see an updated licence expiry date in the HOME tab of your online account. You will also be able to find your renewal receipt by clicking “Print Receipt,” also within the HOME tab.

When do I get my receipt?

Receipts can be downloaded through your online account. You can expect your renewal receipt to become available within 2–3 business days of your payment being processed.

Can I update my information after renewal? Yes. You can update your information any time, and are encouraged to do so whenever your address, phone number, workplace, or other personal information changes. To update your information, log in to your online account, then navigate to the MY PROFILE tab along the top of the screen. Update your personal information and submit the changes. The information will then be updated in our database.
You can also make changes to your account password and security questions any time by navigating to the ACCOUNT tab.


What are the fees for registration?

COBC’s current fee schedule can be found here

Why does COBC increase fees each year? As a not-for-profit regulatory authority created by Government under the Health Professions Act, COBC is funded entirely by registrant fees. As a result of this structure, we are restricted from implementing alternative or creative revenue streams to offset our costs. In 2018, the COBC Board determined that our fees were not generating enough revenue to sustain even the minimum amount of work required to fulfill our mandate to protect the public; so, for the first time in six years, the decision was made to increase fees.
Since then, we have communicated the necessity to introduce incremental increases each year. This is in part to avoid a large one-off increase, making the annual adjustment more manageable for registrants and more sustainable for COBC. The rate of inflation and increased costs incurred by the ongoing evolution of regulation in BC are all taken into consideration when our fees are reviewed.
In the near future, COBC will be amalgamating with several other regulatory colleges. While this amalgamation will eventually make our work much more efficient, we may incur new costs through the amalgamation process.

What does COBC do with my fees? Registrant fees are the only revenue COBC receives. This revenue must cover the general costs of running our organization—including rent, staff salaries, and equipment. We also invest in the programs that are essential to the fulfillment of our mandate. This can include building new systems for quality assurance, funding inquiries, and creating education materials related to Indigenous Cultural Safety and Humility.
Our Annual Reports and Audited Financial Statements contain detailed information about where we are investing our revenue.

Continuing Education

What is the Continuing Competency Program (CCP)?

The CCP is the mandatory continuing education program administered by COBC, which must be completed by all registrants, whether they are practicing or non-practicing. It is a quality assurance tool that supports registrants in their professional development, to ensure they maintain a consistently high level of practice throughout their careers. The program includes a method of competency assessment and enables registrants to enhance their competence within the context of their practice. It was launched in 2018, replacing the credits-based program.

What are the requirements? The CCP requirements are explained in detail here.

How often must the program be completed?

Registrants can work on the CCP at their own pace, over the course of a three-year period. Each registrant is expected to complete their program requirements by the end of their three-year period. The cycle then begins again, with the same requirements to be completed over the next three-year period.

Is it still a requirement to collect and submit credits?

No. While the CCP still requires registrants to complete continuing education activities, the requirements are no longer credits-based, so the collection and submission of credits is not required. Instead, the program is competency-based; this means that registrants can independently choose learning activities that are relevant to the goals they are trying to achieve. These activities are tracked in their Online Learning Plan.

Where can I find instruction manuals or other materials to help me understand/complete the CCP?

A detailed information guide, step-by-step instruction manuals with screenshots, and a full walkthrough video have all been created to assist registrants with the program. These and other program materials can be found on our Guides & Tools page, along with a much more expansive and detailed Frequently Asked Questions document, specific to the CCP.