Optician Training and Certification in California

California is one of only twenty-three states that require optician licensing. Rules and regulations regarding optician training requirements, licensing, and certification are set by the The Medical Board of California. The following information will be applicable to you if you are wanting to be licensed as an optician in the state of California. Before the Medical Board of California can issue a license, a criminal record clearance must be received from both the state Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.


The state of California differentiates between Spectacle Lens Dispensers & Contact Lens Dispensers when it comes to licensure. If you are wishing to perform tasks associated with both spectacle lenses and contact lenses, then you will need to be licensed for both.

Spectacle Lens Dispensers: Sections 2559.1 – 2559.6

No individual may fit and adjust spectacle lenses unless the registration requirement of the State of California is complied with, and unless the individual is a duly registered spectacle lens dispenser or the individual performs the fitting and adjusting under the direct responsibility and supervision of a duly registered spectacle lens dispenser.

A “duly registered spectacle/contact lens dispenser” generally includes a licensed optician, optometrist, or ophthalmologist. Individuals who perform dispensing activities under the supervision of a qualified professional are encouraged to verify compliance with state law before accepting a supervised position.

Examination Requirements:

Optician Training in CaliforniaContact Lenses: Sections 2560 – 2564.6

No individual may fit and adjust contact lenses, including plano contact lenses, unless the registration requirement of the State of California is complied with, and unless the individual is a duly registered contact lens dispenser or the individual performs the fitting and adjusting under the direct responsibility and supervision of a duly registered contact lens dispenser.

Examination Requirements:

Optician Training Programs:

American Career College, located in Los Angeles, provides the opportunity to complete a dispensing program that can be taken during the day for a period of 40 weeks or in the evenings for a period of 50 weeks. The program is available on all three campuses including Orange County, Ontario, and Los Angeles. Graduates are prepared to fill positions as Optical Lab Technicians, Contact Lens Fitters, Optical Dispensers, and Vision Center Retail Staff. You can check out their website to learn more about the program and the online application.

Fees and Forms:

  • Initial registration fee ($100).
  • Renewal fee ($100).
  • Delinquency fee ($25)

State Contact Information:

Phone:          (916) 263-2382
Fax:              (916) 263-2487
California State SealEmail:           webmaster@mbc.ca.gov

2005 Evergreen Street, Ste 1200     Sacramento, CA 95815

Web Site:     The Medical Board of California

Association: California Association of Dispensing Opticians

45 Responses

  1. Nooshin Alavi
    Nooshin Alavi May 1, 2016 at 11:01 pm | | Reply

    I am a Canadian Student Optician in the last semester of the program in Toronto, Ontario. I need to know if I take the Canadian registration exam to be licensed, do I have to retake the American licensing exam again to be qualified as a licensed optician in California? I mean a Canadian licensed optician is qualified to work in California or does she have to retake the exam in the US?

    thank you :)

  2. Miriam becerra
    Miriam becerra April 11, 2016 at 3:29 am | | Reply

    I’m an optometrist graduate of the University of Mexico. I’m living in Sacramento, California now and I would like to know what I need to do to become an optician in California. What are the steps or where can I get an orientation? Thanks!

  3. Maya
    Maya March 23, 2016 at 11:48 am | | Reply

    I am from San Diego and was interested in this program. But, I was wondering, When does the next session start? What hours and days are you in school? and How many students are in each class? Are there any programs closer to San Diego, or is Orange County the closest? Thank you for your help!

  4. Erica Pugh
    Erica Pugh March 11, 2016 at 10:31 pm | | Reply

    I’m in Los Angeles, CA and I attended America Career College and I wanted to know if I go to take my exam and I don’t have my high school diploma with me can they look me up in the system?

  5. Wael
    Wael January 18, 2016 at 6:45 am | | Reply

    I am a lebanese citizen planning to move to California. I have been a Licensed Dispensing optician since 2001 and I did my studies in Jordan-Amman. I got my license from the ministry of health in Lebanon. Can I apply for having a license as a dispensing optician from The American Board of Opticianry and the California Board of Optometry?

  6. Marcie
    Marcie October 23, 2015 at 12:39 am | | Reply

    Hi Brian,

    I reside in the San Diego area; however, there are no vocational schools or community colleges that offer optical assistant or optical technician programs. I am very interested in becoming an optician but am losing hope. Do you have any recommendations on any online schools or programs I can look into? Any information is appreciated.

  7. Gwen
    Gwen March 16, 2015 at 10:37 am | | Reply

    Hi Brian,

    I am a graduate of the Georgian College of Opticianry (diploma) Program, and I have been a full-time licensed optician in Ontario, Canada for 18 years.

    Do I need to take the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) Certification Exams or can I apply directly for a license by transferring my registration from the optician college in Ontario, Canada? Thanks.


  8. Stephen
    Stephen February 22, 2015 at 12:24 am | | Reply

    Hi Brian, thank you for this great resource.

    My girlfriend has worked in two eye doctor offices over the past 4 years. They’ve allowed her to observe and study optician tasks under the supervision of the optometrist. She’s interested in learning and becoming licensed to dispense here in California, but her current (small) office seems to be steering her in the wrong direction (they think there’s only one exam, for instance)

    Can you advise on the best path for someone who has industry experience and semi-hands on experience with dispensing, but no schooling specific to eye care? She has a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated subject.

    Ideally, we are hoping there’s online or night classes available to fill the gaps in her knowledge, and that she can learn enough to be certified for both lenses and contacts within 12 months. Is that realistic?

    Thank you for any information you can share!

  9. kia
    kia January 24, 2015 at 3:53 pm | | Reply

    Hi Brian
    I am a licensed optician in Ontario, Canada and am moving to California. What do I need to do to get my license validated? Thank you!

  10. Steph
    Steph December 24, 2014 at 12:49 am | | Reply

    Hello Brian,

    I am ABO-NCLE certified. What do I have to do to be licensed in the state of California?


  11. Jennifer
    Jennifer October 30, 2014 at 1:09 am | | Reply

    I currently work in an optical department and have been told that I need to get ABO certification under my belt asap. However, I don’t have a high school diploma nor do I have a GED. I am wondering if the state of California requires me to have one or the other in order to even take the ABO?

  12. James
    James October 1, 2014 at 1:33 pm | | Reply

    Hi Brian,

    In several posts you refer to California Medical Board regulations that require an individual to have a license to dispense glasses or contacts. While that is true you should also mention that this regulation is muted if the person in question is working under the direct supervision of a licensed optician, optometrist, or ophthalmologist.

  13. racquel
    racquel September 15, 2014 at 3:24 pm | | Reply

    Hey Brian, I am looking to start a school for optical dispensing in Southern California. Can you recommend any accredited programs or community colleges that offer such programs? I’m trying to stay away from trade schools like American Career College.

    Thank you very much!

  14. Ann
    Ann July 4, 2014 at 1:34 am | | Reply

    Hi Frank,

    I used to work at an independent optometrist office. I never got my license as an optician nor was I ever labeled as one but part of my duties then included fitting/dispensing eyewear, repairing frames, and taking basic measurements (PD, fitting heights). Was that illegal?

  15. Angela
    Angela March 9, 2014 at 10:47 am | | Reply

    Hi Brian,

    I currently live in Virginia. I am a licensed optician and also have my ABOC. I am currently working on my NCLE classes to sit for my exam in 2015.

    Will I be able to transfer my license to be able to work in California?

    On a side note, due to some of the emails I read on this website. I attended J.Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond, VA they are an accredited Opticianry Program. They offer online classes and live lectures. In other words, I was able to ask the professor any questions and speak to other classmates. This is an incredibly awesome school! Their curriculum is recognized by the board. Penn Foster’s curriculum is not recognized by the board, I called them to verify this information when I was looking for a school.

  16. Frank
    Frank February 20, 2014 at 9:13 am | | Reply

    Hey Brian,

    I’m quite new to this. If a license is expired in CA, because it has not been renewed (fees have not been paid). Can we accept a certified optician form from the American Board of Opticianry? Or would we need a updated license as well for verification?


  17. Dave
    Dave January 25, 2014 at 9:38 am | | Reply

    Hi, I am English and am moving to California (Orange County) in the Summer. In June I will take my dispensing optics exams to gain an English FBDO qualification and BSc in Ophthalmic Dispensing. Can you tell me if me being an FBDO is actually going to be of any use to me, if I want to continue my career in optics? Finding it hard to find information elsewhere. Thank you so much!

  18. Lynnette Morris
    Lynnette Morris October 8, 2013 at 2:55 pm | | Reply

    I held an ABOC for a few years but let it expire as I have proven my worth as an optician in Delaware, where licensing is not required. Would renewing my ABOC make me eligible to work in California or is there a state license required?


  19. Jean
    Jean June 15, 2013 at 12:50 pm | | Reply

    Can you please tell me what the ramifications may be if one is pretesting (auto refracting, visual fields, Optomap etc.) and dispensing without being fully trained or licensed? Thank you.

  20. Pamela
    Pamela March 9, 2013 at 4:47 pm | | Reply

    Am I correct in stating that this above mentioned Optician Training Program isn’t the only one for the State of California that the State recognizes. When You do searches, there are other schools in California that prepare you for the exams in California?
    Thank You in advance.

  21. mohammad towfiq teraky
    mohammad towfiq teraky March 2, 2013 at 1:35 am | | Reply

    I currently live in Syria, but am wanting to become an optician. I was curious if there are any good online training programs available?

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