By Linda Conlin, Pro to Pro Managing Editor

In their ongoing work to elevate our profession through education, the Opticians Association of America (OAA) announced the National Optician Initiative, a program aimed at ensuring a high level of uniform competency for opticians throughout the country. The program, announced in the OAA’s March newsletter and at the State Leadership Conference in February, would establish the American Board of Opticianry’s Practical Exam (ABOP) and the National Contact Lens Examiners Practical Examination (NCLEP) as the officially preferred practical examinations for all opticians. This initiative would institute a new category of optician—The National Optician —which would recognize all opticians with the same testing competency, regardless of state licensure status. This would also assist in creating a clear path of mobility for opticians who desire to relocate from state to state.

Intrigued by the concept of a virtual reality practical exam, I visited the ABO/NCLE website to check it out. There are tutorials and practice questions so candidates can get a real feel for how the exam works. ABO/NCLE offers fully interactive preparation for the types of virtual reality questions available on the ABO-NCLE Practical Examinations and how to utilize the lensometer, slit lamp, and many other on-line virtual instruments. They also have sections for keratometry and optical measurement. This interactive test is definitely more engaging, and even more entertaining than the text books and test booklets of old!

According to the ABO-NCLE website, the rigorous and extensive test development process is administered by an industry-leading credentialing, technology, and delivery solutions company. This systematic process produces certification examinations that are psychometrically sound and legally defensible. ABO-NCLE staff guides the entire process that involves:

  • Creating Content Expert Panels composed of a representative sampling of highly qualified, currently practicing, certified opticians
  • Conducting job analyses to determine the professional skills and abilities required to fulfill the role
  • Developing test content outlines with the Content Expert Panels
  • Training groups of volunteer expert opticians to write test items
  • Pilot-testing the examination questions to ensure validity and psychometric adequacy
Exams are continually refined and updated to reflect current practices and to ensure that they are fair and accurate measures of professional competency. ABO-NCLE meets ANSI Standard 1100 for professional certifying organizations.

Now comes the really hard part: buy-in. The OAA has a great national reach and influence, but I’m sure they’ll meet resistance from regulators and possibly from some states that have developed their own exams. The National Optician certification doesn’t necessarily have to replace existing state exams. Opticians would be free to get the certification themselves. We all can help raise our professional standing on a national level by becoming certified, contacting our legislators about a national professional standard, and most importantly, raising consumer awareness. Who wouldn’t want an optician who had achieved national certification helping them with their vision care needs?

If you already hold ABO-NCLE certification, the tutorials and practice questions are a great teaching tool for coworkers. You can then check out continuing education for yourself at