Optician Certification

The American Board of Opticianry


Since its inception in 1976, The ABO has become the industry standard for the evaluation of optician competency. The organization is actually comprised of two separate entities including the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) and the National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE). The ABO certifies those who dispense eyeglasses while the NCLE certifies those who fit contact lenses. The ABO and NCLE are recognized as the top authorities for optician certification nationwide.

The ABO and NCLE examinations are administered by Professional Examination Services (PES). PES is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization whose mission is to “promote the public welfare by communicating and demonstrating the value of credentialing.” It is their belief that “creating a sound credentialing program is one of the most important activities an occupation or profession can undertake.”

The ABO examination production process involves the following steps:

  • Creation of content expert panels comprised of a representative sampling of highly qualified, currently practicing, certified opticians.
  • Job analysis of the professional skills and abilities required to fulfill the role.
  • Development of test content outlines with the content expert panels.
  • Training groups of volunteer expert opticians to write test items.
  • Pilot-testing examination questions to ensure validity and psychometric adequacy.

The ABO-NCLE Certification Process meets the ANSI Standard 1100 for professional certifying organizations.

The Benefits of Optician Certification

There are several reasons why you should consider seeking certification regardless of whether your state requires it. In our society, credentials go a long way in convincing the public that you are qualified and competent to handle eyeglasses and contact lenses. When clients know that you have voluntarily subjected yourself to a nationally standardized evaluation process, they become more receptive to your advice and they view you as an expert in your field.

The benefits of optician certification do not end with the client. Many employers favor job applicants who have been certified. This translates into more job opportunities and higher pay for those who have put forth the time and effort to become certified. A recent ABO survey uncovered the following facts about employers:

  • 28% require certification
  • 75% give preference to certified applicants
  • 75% offer higher beginning salaries to certified applicants
  • 40% give more promotions to certified applicants

An additional benefit to being certified is your ability to distinguish yourself in any state. ABO-NCLE Certification is a national standard that is recognized in every state regardless of licensure requirements. In states where you are not required to be licensed, your certification may be the only credential that you have. It is especially important in these states to be able to demonstrate your competence to clients and employers.

A final benefit relates to the future of healthcare in our society. As the healthcare environment changes in favor of more efficient and less-costly managed care, it will become critically important that you can demonstrate that you deserve to be recognized as a legitimate healthcare professional by managed care companies. Optician certification shows these companies that you represent a unified and highly professional group of people that provide much needed services to the public.

How to Obtain Optician Certification


Certification requires a passing score on the National Opticianry Competency Exam (NOCE) and the Contact Lens Registry Exam (CLRE). The exams are offered at over 250 sites nationwide two times each year. There are 125 items for both exams.  Each exam is administered via computer and lasts for 2.5 hours. To be eligible you must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or GED. Each exam costs $225. While an opticianry degree and experience are not required, those who have both tend to perform better.

ABO Content Areas include 31% on analyzing and interpreting prescriptions, 51% on fitting and dispensing spectacles, and 18% on the use of standard ophthalmic equipment. NCLE Content Areas include 16% on prefit, preparation, and evaluation; 25% on diagnostic fit and evaluation; 29% on lens dispensing, patient education, and delivery procedures; 21% on follow-up visits; and 9% on administrative issues.

The Exam Handbook and other forms can be downloaded by visiting the ABO Website.

6 Responses

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  1. Nikkole
    Nikkole October 14, 2013 at 12:48 pm | | Reply

    I noticed that this was published last year, do you have updated information on the exam costs for the 2013-2014 year? I am looking into taking the test this spring in Illinois. Also I was told that if you passed the test then the exam fee in refunded back to you, do you know if that is correct?

  2. Jenica
    Jenica September 21, 2013 at 6:58 am | | Reply

    If I feel I am ready for the exam, I don’t need to take a course in it? I live in Illinois where licensure or certification isn’t regulated. But I have been studying and feel like I am ready to pass the test.

  3. Marsha Hicks
    Marsha Hicks June 2, 2013 at 1:24 pm | | Reply

    I am interested in becoming a certified optician. But I would have to do online school. Is there any way that this is possible. I can’t seem to find a actual school or training course. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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