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Frequently Asked Questions

How many hours do I need to maintain my license?


Continuing education requirements for dispensing opticians.
The purpose of continuing education is to ensure the continued high quality of services provided by licensed dispensing opticians. Continuing education consists of programs of learning which contribute directly to the advancement or enhancement of skills in the field of opticianry, designed to keep the licensed dispensing opticians informed of current and forecasted developments in a rapidly changing field.

(1) Basic requirements. Licensed dispensing opticians whose three-year continuing education reporting cycle begins on or after June 1, 2015, must complete thirty hours of continuing education every three years as required in chapter 246-12 WAC, Part 7. Of the thirty hours every three years:
(a) A minimum of five hours must be completed in each of the three years;
(b) At least fifteen of the credit hours must relate to contact lenses.
(2) Approved continuing education courses may be completed through the following methods or activities:
(a) Attendance at a local state or national program;
(b) Self-study through distance learning;
(c) Electronically through webinar or video presentations.
(3) Courses offered by the following organizations are presumed to qualify as continuing education courses. The secretary reserves the right to refuse to accept credits in any course if the secretary determines that the course did not provide information sufficient in amount or relevancy to opticianry:
(a) American Board of Opticianry;
(b) National Academy of Opticianry;
(c) Optical Laboratories Association;
(d) National Contact Lens Examiners;
(e) Contact Lens Society of America;
(f) Opticians Association of Washington;
(g) Joint Commission of Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology;
(h) Council on Optometric Practitioner Education;
(i) Opticianry colleges or universities approved by the secretary;
(j) Speakers sponsored by any of the above organizations;
(k) Any state or national opticianry association; and
(l) Additional qualifying organizations or associations as approved by the secretary.




Will I be audited by the state licensing for credit hours?


Yes, names are pulled at random for audit. You must obtain a C.E. credit slip or confirmation after each seminar or course and retain it for proof of participation in case of audit. This is done at random, no one is singled out.




What tests are required to obtain my WA State Dispensing Opticians License?


The state-administered exam has been replaced with the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) and National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE) basic and practical examinations. This change happened because of the age of the state exam, poor test results, and the closing of Seattle Central Community College's opticianry program, the long-standing location for the state exam. The tests are as follows: ABO basic NCLE basic ABO practical (this is virtual and demonstrations are available on ABO-NCLE.org) NCLE practical (this is virtual and demonstrations are available on ABO-NCLE.org)




How do I become an OAW member?


Becoming an OAW member is easy! Visit the Join the OAW page or print and download the membership form here!




What are the benefits of becoming an OAW member?


  • Includes a Free Dual Membership to the Opticians Association of America
  • Free CE Credits at Local Chapter Meeting
  • Reduced Convention Rates
  • Dedicated Legislative Lobbyist
  • Statewide Job Listings
  • Discounts on Education Resources & Materials
  • ABO, NCLE, or DOH credits
  • Network of Peers and Vendors
  • Business Discounts (Red Lion Hotels, Office Max, Hertz Rentals)




How can I get more involved with the OAW?


The OAW has several committees that work to support and improve the lives of Opticians in Washington state. Reach out to us if you have interest in any of the following committees: Membership - The Membership committee works to increase and improve membership of the OAW. Chapters - The Chapters committee works with OAW Chapters across the state to support opticians with educational and networking opportunities in their local area. Legislative - The Legislative committee monitors on-going governmental operations, identify issues suitable for legislative review, gather and evaluate information, and recommend courses of action. Fundraising - The Fundraising committee works together to create new and exciting ways to raise funds to conitinue offering valuable education and resources to Opticians in Washington state. Social Media/Communications - The Social Media/Communications committee works with all other committees to make sure information is shared and accessible to all members. Convention - The Convention Committee works to plan education events throughout the year. Please reach out to the board to learn more on how you can get involved! OAW Board




What is required to obtain my Washington Licensed Dispensing Optician License?


An applicant must have successfully completed at least one of the following:

  • a prescribed course in opticianry in a college or university approved by the secretary of health (online options are available)
  • a 6,000 hour (3-6 year) apprenticeship in Washington state
  • OR have been principally engaged in practicing as a dispensing optician not in the state of Washington for at least five years. These applicants must provide credentials that prove they have been engaged as a practicing dispensing optician for at least five years in another state. That other state must also have standards that are either equal to or greater than the standards established in Washington. Any one of these certifications is required to be approved to take the state license exam.
The student or apprentice must also pass all required licensing exams, which is a series of 4 standardized tests. These exams can be taken throughout the course of study or apprenticeship. These tests are administered at various testing centers throughout Washington state. Accommodations have been made in the age of COVID as well. The tests are as follows:
  • ABO basic
  • NCLE basic
  • ABO practical (this is virtual and demonstrations are available on ABO-NCLE.org)
  • NCLE practical (this is virtual and demonstrations are available on ABO-NCLE.org)
A Washington Dispensing Optician License is only approved once all requirements are met. CLICK HERE to view the Dispensing Optician License Application Packet The Opticians Association of Washington recognizes the need for more education assistance and are working to build a support program for apprentices. The National Academy of Opticianry has valuable study materials available for purchase to assist in successful completion of required exams.




Where can I obtain formal Opticianry Education now that Seattle Central College is closed?


CLICK HERE for a list of the Opticianry Degree and Ophthalmic Laboratory Certificate programs currently accredited by COA.




Will two years at any college fulfill the two years requirement to take the test?


No, the schooling must be at a Board-approved opticianry school. Please CLICK HERE for a list of approved programs.




How do I update my details for my license?


In order to serve you better, the DOH must have your current mailing address. This is especially important because they mail your courtesy renewal notice and updated credential to the address on file. The U.S. Postal Service does not forward Department of Health mail so it is your responsibility to inform the Customer Service Office of an address change. They do not accept contact information updates over the phone. If your contact information is not current in their system, please complete and submit the contact information change form. If you have questions, feel free to contact the DOH.

After completing the form submit it to the Department of Health by: Email – select the Email button on the form, it will be sent automatically Fax – to 360-236-4818 Mail – to the address at the bottom of the form.




What if I have a license from a state other than Washington?


Before licensure to any individual currently licensed to practice as a dispensing optician in another state, as provided in chapter 18.34 RCW, applicants must provide evidence of: (1) Verification of credential from any state and the state's substantially equivalent licensing standards; (2) Verification from all states in which the applicant has ever held a license, whether active or inactive, indicating that the applicant is not subject to charges or disciplinary action for unprofessional conduct or impairment. These applicants must provide credentials that prove they have been engaged as a practicing dispensing optician for at least five years in another state. That other state must also have standards that are either equal to or greater than the standards established in Washington. Any one of these certifications is required to be approved to take the state license exam.




What equipment am I required to have to practice as a licensed dispensing opticiaon who fits contact lenses?


Dispensing opticians shall have direct access to the following equipment while fitting contact lenses:

  • slitlamp or biomicroscope (for evaluation of the fit only),
  • radioscope
  • diameter gauge
  • thickness gauge
  • lensometer
  • keratometer.




What are the fees and renewal cycles for licensed dispensing opticians?


Dispensing optician fees and renewal cycle. (1) Licenses must be renewed every year on the practitioner's birthday as provided in chapter 246-12 WAC, Part 2. (2) The following nonrefundable fees will be charged: Original application - $100.00 Active license renewal - $125.00 Late renewal penalty - $65.00 Retired active renewal - $50.00 Late renewal penalty - $25.00 Expired license reissuance - $65.00 Apprentice registration - $75.00 Duplicate license - $10.00 Verification of license - $25.00 Endorsement application - $100.00 Inactive license - $35.00




If I am employed by a doctor at a private practice, am I required to be licensed?


No, not at this time. Unlicensed individuals can work in the same way as a dispensing optician as long as they are under the personal supervision of a licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist.




Can I file a complaint for a non-compliant practitioner?


There are several ways to file a complaint if you suspect a practioner or facility is not following the law. Visit the WA Department of Health for more information on the complain process: WA Department of Health Complaint Process




I have a question that is not listed here, who do I contact for an answer?


If you have a question, please email us and we will do our best to find information to help you with your question.




I already passed the ABO and NCLE exams. Will I need to take these exams again?


If you passed the basic or advanced ABO exam, the ABO practical, the basic or advanced NCLE exam and/or the NCLE practical on or after June 1, 2015, you do not need to retake any of the exams you passed on or after that date. You are eligible to be licensed in Washington if you also meet all other licensing requirements. If you took any of these exams before June 1, 2015, you will need to retake those examinations taken before that date.




How long does a practioner need to retain a patients contact lens records?


1) Practitioners shall maintain patient records for a minimum of five years. The records shall include the following which adequately reflects the level of care provided by the practitioners: (a) The initial written prescription. (b) Dioptric power. (c) Lens material, brand name and/or manufacturer. (d) Base curve (inside radius of curvature), or appropriate designation. (e) Diameter. (f) Color (when applicable). (g) Thickness (when applicable). (h) Secondary/peripheral curves (when applicable). (i) Special features equivalent to variable curves, fenestration or coating. (j) Suggested wearing schedule and care regimen. (k) In the case of a private label contact lens, the name of the manufacturer, trade name of the private label brand, and, if applicable, trade name of an equivalent brand name. (2) Opticians' records shall additionally include the following if fitting contact lenses: Documentation of written advisement to the patient of the need to obtain a follow-up evaluation by a prescriber. (3) Prescribers' records shall additionally include the following: (a) Documentation of contraindications which would prohibit contact lens wear and documentation that contraindications were explained to the patient by the prescriber. (b) Explanatory notation of the reasons why a prescription has an expiration date of less than two years, and documentation that the reasons were explained to the patient at the time of the eye examination.




Does the OAW do wage surveys?


Yes. Every couple of years we reach out to get information from opticians in Washington state. To see the 2021 Wage Survey results, click here