Interested in becoming an optician, optical lab technician, optical dispenser, or contact lens fitter in California? Then you will need to understand the stepping stones for entering the profession of opticianry, including the required education, certification, and licensure.
Below, we provide an overview of each of these areas so you can properly prepare for your professional journey and begin a rewarding career in vision care.
Education Options for Optical Technicians in CA
Optician Certification Requirements in CA
NOCE & CLRE Overview
Retaking the Exam
Optician License Requirements in CA
License Application & Registration Fee
Application Processing Time
Taking the First Step Toward Becoming an Optical Technician
You can obtain your education and training from optician school, which typically takes anywhere from one to two years, depending on the program. American Career College’s Optical Technician program takes 9 months to complete. Your optical technician program should prepare you for an entry-level position in the field of opticianry, providing you with training on how to:
Your program should also provide you with hands-on learning opportunities in real optical care settings. ACC’s Optical Technician program includes a 200-hour externship that gives students on-site, real-world practice to help prepare them for their future work environments.
Another option is to work as an optician’s assistant or apprentice, which allows you to gain on-the-job training that will help you prepare for the next step of becoming certified and registered as an optician.
Individuals who want to become licensed as an optician in California must pass a national certification exam. According to the California State Board of Optometry, if you are seeking a Spectacle Lens Dispenser license, you must pass the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) exam. If you are seeking a Contact Lens Dispenser license, you must pass the National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE) exam.
The specific Certification exams you will need to take include the following:
American Career College’s Optical Technician program helps students prepare for the NOCE (also known as ABO) and the NCLE.
Here are some important things to note about the NOCE and CLRE:
In regards to the exam cost, ACC reimburses students if they pass the test during their time in the Optical Technician program and up to six months after they have completed the program.
See the ABO-NCLE Basic Exam Handbook to learn about the exam content. It’s worth noting that while there are new practical exams offered by the ABO-NCLE, California does not require them.
If you need to retake an ABO or NCLE exam, you may do so after waiting 14 days from the date of your last test. If you retake the exam three times and are unable to pass, you must wait 90 days before you become eligible for another retake.
Available in Los Angeles and Ontario
An optician can obtain licensure in California only if they are certified with the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) or National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE) first. More on that later.
Anyone in California who fits and adjusts glasses and contact lenses must have a license registered with the California State Board of Optometry — unless they are operating under the direct supervision of an optometrist, ophthalmologist, or registered optician. In the latter case, the individual will be working as an optical assistant. It is illegal to call oneself an “optician” in California without registration with the state board.
There are four different types of optical technician licenses you can register for through the California State Board of Optometry, including:
Registered Dispensing Ophthalmic Business: This RDO registration is for businesses that offer fittings and adjustments of spectacles and/or contact lenses.
Spectacle Lens Dispenser: This registration is for optical technicians who plan to work in dispensing optical businesses.
Contact Lens Dispenser: This registration is for those who plan to work in dispensing optical businesses.
Nonresident Ophthalmic Lens Dispenser: This registration is for out-of-state businesses that ship ophthalmic lenses to consumers within California.
To submit an application for or register a license, you can do so online using BreEZe.
When applying for a license, you will need to first pay a $150 application fee to have your application reviewed by the Board. Upon approval, you will then need to pay a $200 registration fee to register your license with the Board. You will then need to pay a $200 renewal fee every two years
You can expect the following timelines for the proceeding of your application:
Registered Dispensing Ophthalmic Business
3 - 5 weeks
Spectacle Lens Dispenser
3 - 5 weeks
Contact Lens Dispenser
3 - 5 weeks
Nonresident Ophthalmic Lens Dispenser
1 - 2 weeks
If you’re ready to start your journey, enroll today in an educational program that will provide you with the foundational knowledge and training you need to feel confident working as an entry-level optical technician.
ACC’s Optical Technician program can prepare you for the role of connecting patients with eye care solutions. The program is offered at our Los Angeles and Ontario campuses and is taught in a blended format combining in-person instruction with online coursework.
Learn more about the Optical Technician program at ACC!
Ontario Campus: Voted Best Career College in the 2023 Inland Valley Daily Bulletin Readers Choice Awards.
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