Opticians help people choose the right form of eye care for them – including glasses, contacts and other technologies. To become an optician in Canada there are two potential pathways – pursuing your education regarding opticianry here in Canada, or having your international education and experience assessed by a provincial opticianry regulator. Both can lead to fulfilling and well-paid careers here in Canada.
Pathway 1 – Getting your Optician Education in Canada
Feature Program – Douglas College Dispensing Opticianry
Douglas College offers a two-year program in Dispensing Opticianry for both domestic and international students. The program two-year diploma course with one internship period and this major covers all areas of the modern optical industry, including glasses, contact lenses and computer optometry techniques. This knowledge is acquired through both classroom instruction and clinical experience in the College’s Vision Centre; in the centre, students acquire both technical as well as interpersonal skills while interacting with patients. Meanwhile, some of the courses in this diploma include Theory in Contact Lenses and Optical Technologies, Dispensing Optician Lab Skills, and Interpersonal Skills in the Workplace.
Graduated students can apply for a 3-year work permit after graduation, and participate in a registered optician license exam to become a professional in the optical industry. The major has always been welcomed by employers in the optical industry with students getting hired within 3 months after graduation.
Becoming a Licensed Optician in Canada – Pass the National Optical Sciences Examination
After graduating from an opticianry program, students must pass the NACOR National Optical Sciences Examination. This examination is necessary for opticians in all provinces with the exception of Quebec, who has alternative testing modalities. Should students choose to pursue a career in opticianry in Quebec, they should consult their regulatory body.
Upon completion of the exam, a license will be granted by the Provincial Regulatory Agency (College of Opticians) and it will allow you to practice to the full scope of their provincial legislation. Students can further pursue licensure for contact lens fitting should they wish, making them essentially double-certified.
Pathway 2 – Have your Credentials Assessed in Canada
The Opticians Association of Canada is the national regulatory body for opticians here in Canada. Each province has different systems and regulations governing foreign-trained opticians licensure for each province. In light of this, it’s recommended foreign-trained opticians consult the province’s specific regulatory body.
For example, the College of Opticians of British Columbia has a particular methodology for assessing foreign-trained opticians. International applicants or graduates who pursued a non-accredited program must apply for licensing approval through the Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition process. The process for recognition will include an assessment of the applicant’s knowledge, skills, experience and abilities. Then, applicants will complete a competency gap analysis followed by a case-based interview in each designation they’re registering for.
Other provinces and territories will have different methods of assessment – consult your specific province for more information regarding optician licensure in Canada.
Career Outlook for Opticians Across Canada
Opticians in Canada are expected to be highly demanded over the period of 2019-2028; new job openings are expected to total 5600, while new optician graduates are expected to total 4900 according to the Government of Canada. Demand is expected to be highest in the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Quebec and Saskatchewan and fair in the provinces of Manitoba, New Brunswick, and Ontario as cited by the Government of Canada. In the remaining provinces, demand remains undetermined according to the Government of Canada.
The salaries for opticians vary per province, but the median salary for all of Canada is $24.00 per hour as cited by the Government of Canada. Below are the median hourly salaries for the varying provinces:
- British Columbia – $23.50 per hour
- Nova Scotia – $25.16 per hour
- Alberta – $23.40 per hour
- Saskatchewan – $22.15 per hour
- Manitoba – $22.00 per hour
- New Brunswick – $25.16 per hour
- Prince Edward Island – N/A
- Ontario – $27.00 per hour
- Quebec – $24.00 per hour
- Yukon – N/A
- Northwest Territories – N/A
- Nunavut – N/A
- Newfoundland and Labrador – $25.16 per hour
Becoming an optician in Canada can be achieved by either completing an accredited opticianry program in Canada or by having your foreign credentials assessed by the provincial opticianry regulator. Both methods can lead to fulfilling careers in opticianry in Canada for international students or new immigrants to Canada!