Opticians are one of the three health professions that are concerned with eyes and eye health. The other two “O’s” responsible for eyes are Optometrists and Ophthalmologists. Just like a nurse, a doctor, and a surgeon, we have different specializations and different levels of study.
Opticians are health professionals who supply, prepare, and dispense optical appliances to ensure patients have the corrective lenses necessary to support their vision needs.
Opticians interpret prescriptions written by Optometrists and Ophthalmologists, and consider factors that affect the design and fabrication of the finished appliance.
License Required to Dispense
Only registered professionals may dispense corrective lenses in Alberta.
Dispensing eyeglasses, contact lenses, and subnormal devices to the public are restricted activities under Alberta law. Only registered professionals are permitted to perform restricted activities in accordance with the Health Professions Act of Alberta.
Under the Government Organization Act, to dispense corrective lenses means “to verify corrective lenses objectively to the prescription.” Opticians must be registered with the College of Opticians of Alberta to dispense corrective lenses in the province.
The Health Professions Act of Alberta further defines the activities registered opticians may perform:
- Based on an optical prescription, design, supply, prepare, adjust, and dispense optical appliances and prostheses, including corrective lenses,
- Promote eye health and the correct use of optical appliances and prostheses through education of consumers and regulated members,
- Perform refractions and identify the need for corrective lenses,
- Conduct or collaborate in optical related research,
- When providing professional services referred to in this section, conduct assessments and make referrals where appropriate, and
- Provide restricted activities authorized by the regulations.
Registered opticians may supervise provisional opticians or students who are performing the restricted activity of dispensing.
Registration of Opticians
Opticians in Alberta must demonstrate their competency with the NACOR exam, usually after earning an opticianry diploma. Opticians are registered by the COA in three categories:
- Provisional Optician: A graduate of a recognized opticianry program who may work under supervision while preparing to complete the NACOR exam.
- Registered Optician (RO): An optician who has completed their education and NACOR exam in eyeglass dispensing and is now fully licensed.
- Registered Contact Lens Practitioner (RCLP): A Registered Optician who has completed additional education and the NACOR exam in contact lens dispensing.
Registered opticians with additional training in refraction, or sight testing, may also apply to the COA for registration in this area of advanced practice. Refracting opticians are not assigned an additional designation or abbreviation.
Directory of Opticians
Once registered, the COA monitors the ongoing competency of opticians and ensures professional conduct through a robust complaints and discipline process. To verify the registration status of an optician, visit the COA’s Directory of Opticians.