Learn more about our online Optician School
In Penn Foster’s Optician Career Diploma program, you’ll learn how to fit and dispense glasses and contact lenses for people with eye problems, following prescriptions written by optometrists and ophthalmologists. You can complete this program in as little as five months, and you’ll learn it all in a format designed for you by board certified and state licensed opticians! Did you know that optician jobs are expected to increase 23% in upcoming years?¹
Optician students also have the opportunity to complete a practicum before graduation. And the program will prepare you for national certification exams, administered by the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) and the National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE), and Penn Foster provides the exam prep materials.
Program Goal and Outcomes
To prepare students to sit for the National Opticianry Competency Examination (NOCE) or the Contact Lens Registry Examination (CLRE).
Upon completion of the program, students will be able to:
- Perform the mathematical calculations used in the opticianry profession
- Perform business tasks such as maintaining sales records
- Receive customers' prescriptions for eyeglasses or contact lenses
- Explain how to create work orders for ophthalmic laboratory technicians, providing information about the lenses needed
- Describe ophthalmic lens design and apply basic math formulas related to ophthalmic lenses
- Describe how to measure the interpupillary distance (PD) and bifocal and multifocal heights
- Discuss the methods used to insert lenses into different types of frames and align plastic and metal frames
- Explain how the principles of reflection and refraction are applied in ophthalmic lenses and how lens curvature is used to correct vision List the basic steps in using a keratometer.
- Discuss the uses of a biomicroscope, or slit lamp. Perform business tasks such as keeping track of customers’ prescriptions and ordering and maintaining inventory
- Demonstrate problem solving ability by understanding patient issues and communicating possible solutions
- Understand and communicate ophthalmic lens surfacing, finishing, and manufacturing processes.
- Understand practical applications of eyewear adjustments and repairs including use of specialty eyewear tools
Basic Skills Assessment
You’re required to complete two Basic Skills Assessments, one in reading and one in math, to determine your level of readiness for beginning your program. Additional studies may be required.
Starting Your Program
Succeed by learning how to use your Penn Foster program.
- Understand how to use your Student Portal, including your My Homepage and My Courses pages.
- Access the Penn Foster Community and use it to find answers.
- Connect with Penn Foster on various social media sites.
Introduction to Opticianry
This course introduces you to the field of opticianry.
- Summarize the early developments and major contributors to the eye care industry.
- Identify the members of the eye care team.
- List the tasks that may be performed by the members of the eye care industry.
- Explain the requirements for licensure in the various states.
- Describe the types of offices that you may work in and the role of the optician in each one.
- Name the organizations involved in regulating the tasks that are performed by opticians.
This lesson is designed to help you develop professional relationships in the workplace.
- Understand and explain the components of communication, both verbal and nonverbal.
- Develop effective listening and observation skills.
- Recognize prejudice in interpersonal relations.
- Describe personal traits essential for successful interpersonal relations.
Build on your interpersonal communication skills by submitting a graded project for the course. You’ll have to choose one of two options: write an essay of 500-800 words or write and present a speech of two-to-three minutes.
Math for Opticians
This course will introduce you to the mathematical calculations performed in the opticianry profession.
- Measure distance, weight, capacity, and temperature using the English and metric systems.
- Use ratios and proportions to solve problems.
- Use formulas to solve problems.
- Solve simple equations.
- Define the term decimal and perform arithmetic using decimals.
- Define the term signed number and perform arithmetic using signed numbers.
- Convert between millimeters, centimeters, and meters.
- Convert between inches and millimeters or centimeters.
- Define the terms formula and variable, and use the calculator to evaluate formulas for particular values of variables.
- Define the terms sine, cosine, tangent.
- Use the calculator to find the sin of an angle and to evaluate formulas containing the sine function.
Word™ and Excel®
This course will help you get used to the computer by walking you through the first steps of using your PC. You’ll learn the many ways that Windows® can help you complete your daily tasks, the vast world of information that exists on the Internet, how to use Microsoft® Word™ 2010 to create, edit, and illustrate documents, and how to use the most widely used spreadsheet program, Microsoft® Excel.®
- Set up a computer system.
- Navigate in the Windows® environment.
- Consult on-screen Help for answers to questions.
- Use the programs contained in the Windows® Accessories and the System Tools for Windows.®
- Customize your computer display and input devices to suit your preferences.
- Create notes, documents, and drawings using Windows® Accessories.
- Locate a file, open a recently used document, and retrieve a file that has been recently deleted.
- View and organize files and folders on your local disk.
- Use search engines and email.
- Identify the best Internet providers and services for your needs.
- Upload and download files from the Internet.
- Create, edit, format, and merge Word™ documents.
- Add graphics and tables.
- Use the basic elements of Microsoft® Excel.®
- Add, delete, and sort data.
- Create and use formulas, charts, and graphs.
Graded Project - Microsoft® Word
This project involves a case study based on a fictional firm. You’ll assume the role of a director of training responsible for creating promotional literature for the firm. The promotional documents will be mailed to a potential customer of the firm. The customer is being personally invited to a training seminar on the new features of Word™ 2010. For this project, you’ll complete four sections of the promotional literature package. The sections consist of a cover letter introducing the firm and inviting the potential customer to the training session, a fact sheet highlighting the new features of Word™ 2010, a flier promoting the training, and a registration form.
Graded Project - Microsoft® Excel®
This project involves the following scenario: The office where you work would like to track the cost of office supplies used for a two-month period. As office manager, you’re asked to compare two months’ worth of inventory and prepare a graphical representation of the comparison to show the increase or decrease in supply use. You’re given the amounts by the purchasing department and must prepare an Excel® spreadsheet to be sent to the Chief Financial Officer of your company.
Optical Principles, Terminology, and Anatomy
In this course, you’ll learn about the properties of light and how it reacts as it passes through ophthalmic lenses, the characteristics of spectacle lenses used to correct vision, how the eye works, and how vision is corrected, as well as some of the common disorders and diseases of the eye.
- Understand and describe the theories of light.
- Understand and describe the laws of reflection and refraction.
- Describe the characteristics of ophthalmic lenses.
- Describe ophthalmic lens design.
- Apply basic math formulas related to ophthalmic lenses.
- Understand quality standards for prescription eyewear.
- Understand basic optical terminology.
- Describe the refraction of light through an ophthalmic lens.
- Determine the power of a lens at an off axis meridian.
- Understand and describe prismatic effect.
- Transpose a written prescription for eyeglasses.
- Identify the different parts of the eye and describe their functions.
- Describe the visual pathway and how light is refracted within the eye.
- Name and describe the seven common refractive errors and how they are corrected.
- Name the extraocular muscles and describe how they make the eye turn.
- Name and describe vision disorders and other pathological conditions of the eye.
- Describe visual acuity testing.
- Describe the tear film and how it is produced.
- Describe the external structures of the eye.
- Understand terminology and instruments used during an eye examination.
This program requires you to enroll in a six-month (120-hour) practicum during the course of your studies. You’ll be required to find a clinical site within your local community to perform specific optician duties in order to complete the practicum. Potential clinical sites include an optician’s office or laboratory, an optometric practice that contains an optical dispensary, an ophthalmic practice that contains an optical dispensary, a hospital that contains an eye clinic, and a retail optical business. All clinical sites must be approved by the program instructor. You’ll begin your site search now (although it is recommended that you select this site before enrolling in the program) and begin completing your practicum requirements, which will be due at the end of the program.
Ophthalmic Dispensing 1
This course describes the basic skills and techniques required of an ophthalmic dispenser. You will learn how to interpret written prescriptions, take facial measurements, determine correct frame sizes, and align and adjust frames.
- Define basic eyewear terminology.
- Explain the frame measurements used in making eyeglasses.
- Understand the informational markings on frames.
- Describe how to measure the interpupillary distance (PD).
- Explain the important cosmetic considerations in frame selection.
- Describe how lenses are positioned before the eyes.
- Measure bifocal and multifocal heights for lenses.
- Discuss the variations in seg heights.
- Determine the lens blank size needed for an individual pair of eyeglasses.
- Explain procedures to order and verify prescriptions from an optical laboratory.
- List the steps in lens insertion.
- Describe the methods used to insert lenses into different types of frames.
- Describe the characteristics of standard frame alignment.
- Explain how to heat a frame before alignment.
- Discuss how to align plastic and metal frames.
- Describe the techniques used to custom-fit a frame.
- Explain how to fit temples and nosepads for maximum comfort.
- Describe several basic frame repair techniques.
Additional Course Material
Textbook: System for Ophthalmic Dispensing
Ophthalmic Dispensing 2
This course is a continuation of Ophthalmic Dispensing 1. Focus is on the theory of light, as well as lens power, design, materials, colors, safety, and edging.
- Define the terms reflection and refraction.
- Explain how the principles of reflection and refraction are applied in ophthalmic lenses.
- Describe how lens curvature is used to correct vision.
- Explain the difference between single vision, multifocal, and progressive addition lenses.
- Describe the relationship between lens power and position.
- Discuss how optical prism is used in lenses to improve visual acuity.
- Solve problems using the Prentice’s rule formula.
- Define the term Fresnel prism and discuss how these prisms are used in eyeglass lenses.
- Review the history of lens development.
- Calculate appropriate base curves for various prescriptions.
- Define the differences between chromatic aberrations and monochromatic aberrations.
- Explain the uses of aspheric and atoric lenses.
- Discuss problems introduced by high plus and high minus lenses in a prescription.
- Explain how multifocal lenses are used to improve vision.
- Name the major types of bifocals and trifocals.
- Define the terms accommodation and effectivity as they apply to lens design.
- Explain how progressive addition lenses are measured and dispensed.
- Discuss the problems of anisometropia and aniseikonia.
- Define the terms tint and transmission, the two classifying variables for absorptive lenses.
- Describe how visible and nonvisible light can harm the eye.
- Describe the different tints that are used in colored lenses, and how they protect the eye.
- Explain the use of antireflection and scratch-resistant coatings on lenses.
- Discuss how polarizing lenses work.
- List the different materials that are used to make lenses, and describe their properties.
- Describe how a drop-ball test is conducted.
- Name the principle steps in the lens edging process.
- Explain how lenses are spotted.
- Discuss how lenses are decentered.
Contact Lens Dispensing
In this course, you’ll be introduced to the world of contact lenses.
- Discuss the historical development of contact lenses.
- List the different materials that have been used to manufacture contact lenses.
- Describe the basic anatomy of the eye, including the parts of the adnexa oculi and the globe.
- Name and describe some of the important diseases and problem conditions that affect the eye.
- Explain how contact lens wear relates to the structure of the eye.
- Relate basic optical concepts to contact lenses.
- Discuss the characteristics of a good contact lens candidate.
- List several conditions that contraindicate contact lens wear.
- Describe how the surface of the cornea is measured with a keratometer.
- List the basic steps in using a keratometer.
- Discuss the uses of a biomicroscope, or slit lamp.
- Name the common slit lamp illuminations that are used to evaluate contact lenses.
- Explain how fluorescein is used to evaluate lens fit.
- Describe the fitting philosophies used with rigid gaspermeable lenses.
- Discuss how PMMA wearers can be refitted with GP lenses.
- List the important prefitting considerations for soft daily wear lenses.
- Name some contraindications to wearing soft contact lenses.
- Explain how to evaluate the fit of a soft contact lens.
- Describe the ordering and delivery procedures for soft contact lenses.
- Discuss the manufacturing procedures for rigid gaspermeable lenses and soft lenses.
- Describe how contact lenses are verified in the office.
- Explain some of the techniques that are used to modify RGP lenses in the office.
- Describe the basic delivery procedures for RGP and soft lenses.
- List the common adaptive symptoms many patients experience with new lenses.
- List some of the important abnormal symptoms that patients should be aware of.
- Describe the components of a typical contact lens care system.
- Explain the importance of patient compliance to eye health.
- List the checks that are performed in a follow-up visit.
- Explain how extended wear contact lenses are fitted.
- List some of the complications seen in patients with extended wear lenses.
Additional Course Material
Textbook: Contact Lens Manual
In this course you’ll learn the skills you need to become more confident in your writing.
- Know the parts of speech.
- Use pronouns and modifiers properly and effectively.
- Explain subject-verb agreement.
- Use end marks, commas, and other common punctuation marks.
- Use capitalization correctly.
- Explain common spelling rules and use them in your writing.
- Cite research sources.
- Compose a variety of sentence structures.
- Construct unified, coherent paragraphs.
- Connect paragraphs to build a well-organized, logical document.
- Identify your audience, medium, and purpose.
- Focus and organize your ideas.
- Plan both informal and formal writing projects.
- Revise, edit, and proofread to make your final copy accurate and professional.
- Write well-structured, professional letters.
- Format business letters, memos, and emails.
This course will help you prepare for employment as an optical dispenser and to complete basic business tasks on the job.
- Describe the elements of a professional appearance.
- Explain the importance of maintaining confidentiality.
- List some of the professional organizations of which you may become a member.
- Identify continuing education requirements and related certifications.
- Locate employment opportunities.
- Create a resume and cover letter.
- Prepare for an interview.
- Perform record keeping and billing tasks.
- File insurance forms.
- Identify the basic procedures of frame board management and inventory control.
- Discuss the importance of the doctor-dispenser and customer-dispenser relationships.
- Describe the proper way to greet a patient in person and on the telephone.
Additional Course Material
Learning Aids: ABO review set and Test Review 1 for Contact Lens Technicians
National Certification Preparation
As part of your program, you'll receive the following materials from the National Academy of Opticianry and the Contact Lens Society of America to help you prepare for the ABO/NCLE certification exams:
- Ophthalmic Dispensing Review Book
- Spectacle Certification Exam Math Review Book
- Spectacle Certification Exam Review Book
- Test Review 1 for Contact Lens Technicians
Graduates of the Penn Foster Optician Program are prepared to sit for the National Opticianry Competency Examination (NOCE), which is administered by the American Board of Opticianry (ABO). Those who pass the NOCE are awarded the ABOC credential (ABO certified). Graduates are also prepared to sit for the Contact Lens Registry Examination (CLRE), which is administered by the National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE). Those who pass the CLRE are awarded the NCLEC credential (NCLE certified).
ABO and NCLE certification is a national standard, not a state license and is recognized in every state and many foreign countries. In non-licensing states, certification is especially important; it is an optician’s only credential.
It’s also interesting to note that
- 90% of state licensing boards use the ABO and NCLE exams as the basis for state licensing.
- 23% of licensing states require current ABO/NCLE certification for move-ins who apply for licensing.
At this time, you’ll submit your clinical practicum to your instructor for a pass/fail grade.
(See Course 5 for details.)
You will need high-speed internet access to begin your program. You will need access to a Microsoft® Windows® based computer running Windows® 7 or later or an Apple® Mac® computer running OS X® or later, Microsoft® Office 2013, and an email account to complete your program with Penn Foster.
Transfer Credits & Graduate Sooner!
Students can receive advanced academic credit for Business English, Microsoft® Word and Excel, and Interpersonal Communication within this program. Learn more about our transfer credit policy.
To view an Optician sample lesson, click here.
Optician Program Details
Penn Foster will help you gain the knowledge and skills you need:
- Optical principles, terminology, and anatomy
- Ophthalmic and contact lens dispensing
- Math for opticians
- Business English and professional practices
Graduates of the Optician program will be eligible to sit for the National Opticianry Competency Examination (NOCE), which is administered by the American Board of Opticianry (ABO). Those who pass the NOCE are awarded the ABOC credential (ABO certified).You'll also be eligible to sit for the Contact Lens Registry Examination (CLRE), which is administered by the National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE). Those who pass the CLRE are awarded the NCLEC credential (NCLE certified).