What is PLAR?

If you have a background in optics or health care, you may be eligible to become an optician through the PLAR process.

PLAR stands for Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition and is a process that allows applicants who have not been educated in an accredited Canadian institution the opportunity to become a licensed optician.

Once you have decided on the province where you want to live, you should contact the regulatory body for opticians in that province.

Provincial Regulatory Bodies

College of Opticians of British Columbia

Alberta College and Association of Opticians

College of Opticians of Saskatchewan

The Opticians of Manitoba

College of Opticians of Ontario

Ordre des opticiens d’ordonnances du Québec

College of Opticians of Nova Scotia

College of Opticians of New Brunswick

Prince Edward IslandE-Mail

Newfoundland and LabradorE-Mail, Phone/Fax: 1-709-579-2605

PLAR Process

Every province handles the PLAR a little differently but in general, you can expect the following:

1. Application

The provincial regulatory body will provide you with an application or registration package. You will be asked to provide various documentation. This could include:

  • Completed PLAR application form
  • Documentation of dispensing experience and fittings from each place of previous employment
  • Two passport-sized photos of yourself taken within the last two years
  • Transcripts from educational institutions you attended – specifically optician training programs from which you have graduated
  • Letters of reference from previous employers
  • Proof of previous licensure
  • Summary of previous and current optical experience
  • Personal and Professional References

2. Case Based Interview (CBI)

The Case Based Interview is a chance for you to share your practical knowledge. The interviewers will ask you about your own experiences dispensing eyeglasses and fitting contact lenses (if applicable).

The interview will be divided into three categories:

Core

Eyeglasses

Contact Lenses

In some provinces you do not need to be a qualified contact lens fitter in order to become a registered optician. If that is the case you will need to answer the ‘Core’ and ‘Eyeglasses’ questions, but ‘Contact Lenses’ would be optional. In other provinces (example: Ontario) you must qualify as a contact lens fitter as well as an eyeglass dispenser in order to register. In this case, you would be required to answer questions from all three sections

The approach is conversational. The interviewers will provide you with hypothetical scenarios where you will explain your experience or proposed courses of action. The interview will be about 3 hours long with an optional short break after each section.

3. Competency Gap Analysis (CGA)

The Competency Gap Analysis is an online tool which will help determine any gaps in your knowledge that you need to improve on. It is important to note that the CGA is not a test; you do not simply pass or fail. The CGA is a way for us to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses according to the NACOR list of National Competencies for Canadian opticians. Because of this, the CGA is divided into three sections:

Core

Eyeglasses

Contact Lenses

In some provinces you do not need to be a qualified contact lens fitter in order to become a registered optician. If that is the case you will need to challenge the ‘Core’ and ‘Eyeglasses’ sections, but ‘Contact Lenses’ would be optional. In other provinces (example: Ontario) you must qualify as a contact dispenser as well as an eyeglass dispenser in order to register. In this case, you would be required to challenge all three sections.

Each section will provide you with a series of multiple choice questions. You will have 5 hours to complete the three sections with an optional short break after each section.

For examples of the types of questions you will be asked during the CGA, complete the PLAR Sample Quiz on this website.

4. Review of Results

The Registration Committee will look at your whole application, including your documentation, CGA and CBI results. From this evaluation, the Committee will determine what you need to do next to become a licensed optician.

5. Decision

After the Registration Committee assesses all of the information gathered they will come to a decision. There are two possible outcomes of PLAR:

Bridging: If gaps in learning are identified at any point in the process the Committee may refer the applicant to complete a specified bridging program.

Examination: If the Committee is confident that an applicant’s prior learning is comparable to that of accredited and recognized education in Canada they may allow the applicant to proceed to challenge the national licensing exam (National Optical Sciences Exam).

National Optical Sciences Examination

The National Optical Sciences Examination is a practical exam and is often referred to as the NACOR exam because it is administered by the National Association of Canadian Optician Regulators (NACOR).

To find out more information about the national exam and how to apply, you can visit the Examinations page of this website or contact NACOR or the regulatory body for opticians in your province.

After successfully challenging the exam, applicants become eligible to apply for licensure as a registered optician with their provincial regulatory body.

PLAR Fees

PLAR candidates can expect to pay a document assessment and/or application fee, and a fee for the Competency Gap Analysis (CGA) Case Based Interview (CBI).

Each regulatory body has their own fee schedule. The following are links to the fee schedules of the provincial regulatory bodies that are available online:

College of Opticians of British Columbia

Alberta College and Association of Opticians

Opticians of Manitoba

College of Opticians of Saskatchewan

College of Opticians of Ontario

Nova Scotia College of Opticians

College of Opticians of New Brunswick

For more detailed information about the various fees, please visit the Licensing Calculator page or contact the provincial regulatory bodies directly.

Language Demands of the PLAR Process

Online Skills Assessment (Gap Analysis)

Skill CLB Level
Reading 7

CBI Interview

Skill CLB Level
Speaking 6/7
Listening 7/8

Ready to start the PLAR process?

If you think you are ready to start the PLAR process, and you know which province you would like to live and work in, you can follow the links below to contact the regulatory body in that province or start the application online!

College of Opticians of British Columbia Online Application

Alberta College and Association of Opticians

College of Opticians of Saskatchewan

The Opticians of Manitoba

College of Opticians of Ontario

Ordre des opticiens d’ordonnances du Québec

College of Opticians of Nova Scotia

College of Opticians of New Brunswick

Prince Edward Island: E-Mail

Newfoundland and LabradorE-Mail, Phone/Fax: 1-709-579-2605

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