Dispensing Optician - Online Courses | Penn Foster Career School

Online Optician School

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Learn more about our online Optician School

In Penn Foster Career School's online Optician Career Diploma program, you’ll learn how to fit and dispense glasses and contact lenses, following prescriptions written by optometrists and ophthalmologists. You can complete this program in as little as seven months, and you’ll learn it all in a format designed by board certified and state-licensed opticians! Our Optician online courses are designed to provide you the flexibility you need to complete your education on your schedule.

Our optician students also have the opportunity to complete a practicum before graduation. And the program will help you prepare for dispensing optician national certification exams, administered by the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) and the National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE), by providing you with exam prep materials. And, did you know that optician jobs are expected to increase 23% in upcoming years?¹

Curriculum Details

Program Goal and Outcomes

Program Goal

To prepare students to sit for the National Opticianry Competency Examination (NOCE) or the Contact Lens Registry Examination (CLRE).

Program Outcomes

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

Course 1

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.
  • Access the Penn Foster Community and use it to find answers.
  • Connect with Penn Foster on various social media sites.
ALH020 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.

Course 2

HUM106 Interpersonal Communication

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.
Graded Project

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.

Course 3

ALH022 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.

Course 4

CSC104 Computer Applications

This course will allow you to build your computer skills through a combination of reading and hands-on practice while learning Microsoft® Office.


  • Create, edit, and illustrate Microsoft® Word™ documents.
  • Apply formulas and functions to large data sets in Microsoft® Excel.®
  • Incorporate useful charts and graphs to summarize data.
  • Add, delete, sort, and lay out table data.
  • Create presentations in Microsoft® PowerPoint® using advanced tools, tables, and charts.
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.

Course 5

ALH023 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.
Clinical Practicum

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.

Course 6

ALH024 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

Course 7

ALH025 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.

    Course 8

    ALH026 Contact Lens Dispensing

    In this course, you’ll be introduced to the world of contact lenses.


    • Cite the major landmarks in contact lens development
    • Differentiate between parts of the human eye
    • Explain theoretical and contact lens optics
    • Identify indications and contraindications for contact lens wear
    • Recognize the instruments used in measuring the eye and contact lenses
    • Describe the purpose of a biomicroscope in detecting and assessing ocular conditions
    • Explain the philosophies behind fitting rigid daily wear contact lenses
    • Describe how to evaluate the fit of soft lenses
    • Identify the materials and manufacturing techniques used to make rigid and soft contact lenses
    • Differentiate between the delivery procedures for soft lens patients and rigid lens patients
    • Recognize the role the eccentricity value plays in aspheric contact lenses
    • Explain how to choose and evaluate toric soft lenses
    • Distinguish between the types of astigmatism
    • Differentiate between the subjective follow-up examination and the objective follow-up examination
    • Explain patient selection, fitting procedures, lens care, and complications associated with extended wear lenses
    • Identify how to evaluate and adjust the fit of bifocal contact lenses
    Additional Course Material

    Textbook: Contact Lens Manual

    Course 9

    ENG010 Business English

    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.

    Course 10

    ALH027 Professional Practice

    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.
    Clinical Practicum

    At this time, you’ll submit your clinical practicum to your instructor for a pass/fail grade.

    (See Course 5 for details.)

    Computer Specifications
    As you know this is an online academic program. This means you will need high-speed internet access to begin your program. In addition, you will need access to a Microsoft® Windows® based computer running Windows 7® or later, Microsoft® Office 365, and an email account to participate in and complete your program.

    We reserve the right to change program content and materials when it becomes necessary.
    Microsoft, Windows, and Excel are registered trademarks and Word is a trademark of Microsoft Corporation in the United States of America and/or other jurisdictions.
    Apple, Mac, and OS X are trademarks of Apple, Inc registered in the United States of America and/or other jurisdictions.

    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.

    Sample Lesson

    To view an Optician sample lesson, click here.

    Optician Program Details

    Online courses in the Penn Foster Career School Optician program cover topics such as:

    Certification Eligibility

    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).

    State Requirements

    Please review your state board requirements that are applicable to your field of study. State boards may impose a variety of different requirements. This is particularly important for residents of Florida, Indiana, and Kentucky.

    State Licensing Information

    Licensing and/or certification requirements for jobs in this field are not the same in every state and may include educational, testing, and/or experiential requirements beyond those offered by your Penn Foster Program. You should contact the state professional licensing board or similar regulatory body in the state(s) where you plan to work to determine their requirements before enrolling in your Program. Please click here for contact information for state licensing/regulatory boards and certain industry licensing information.

    Penn Foster Career School is not approved or regulated as a school by the Maryland Higher Education Commission.

    Online Optician School

    Here are a few qualities that effective opticians have in common:

    • Compassionate: You care about the health and well-being of others.
    • Cooperative: You are pleasant and a good communicator.
    • Patient: Helping others is a step-by-step process that can take time.
    • Dependable: Patients and companies rely on you to provide accurate information.
    • Detail oriented: It’s important to have a sharp eye and check things twice.

    I am so happy that I made a career change with the help of Penn Foster. Penn Foster makes it easy, and they are always supportive and encouraging to you. Whenever I had a question, I just gave my instructors a call, and they were very helpful and easy to talk with. The online testing made it convenient, and my shipments always arrived right on time.

    -Christina R., Penn Foster Graduate

    My overall experience with Penn Foster was great. You are allowed to go at your own speed, and the school gives encouragement to keep you going. I would recommend Penn Foster.

    - James R., Penn Foster Graduate

    Penn Foster is a great school with amazing people who always help and work with you through ANY situation. I experienced a fire in my home, and Penn Foster was there for me to cope through the situation. Thank you, and I will be doing another program soon.

    - Claudia D., Penn Foster Graduate

    Your program includes:

    • Customized payment plans with 0% interest
    • Books and learning aids
    • Prep materials for the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) and the National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE) certification examinations
    • Goal-setting and progress-tracking tools
    • Instructional support from our experienced faculty
    • Access 24/7 to Penn Foster’s online community, plus immediate membership in the Optician academic group
    • Your personalized online student homepage and learning portal
    • Additional resources such as our online library and career guidance from Career Cruising

    What certifications are available for students in the Optician Career Diploma Program at Penn Foster Career School?

    Upon completion of the program, you'll 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).

    Can I transfer previously earned credits to the Penn Foster Career School Optician Career Diploma program?

    Yes, you may be able to receive advanced academic credit for some courses within the program, which means you can move through your curriculum faster and earn your certificate or diploma sooner. Learn more about our transfer credit policy.

    More FAQs >

    ¹ Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, "Occupational Outlook Handbook," 2014-15 Edition, Opticians, Dispensing, on the Internet here. Statements found in the United States Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook are not a guarantee of any post-graduation salary, in part because the data used to create the Occupational Outlook Handbook includes workers from differing educational backgrounds, levels of experience, and geographic areas of the country.

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