What is an Unaccredited Program?
The National Association of Canadian Optician Regulators (NACOR) develops, coordinates, and manages an accreditation process for Opticianry programs in Canada. The reason for this initiative is to identify educational programs that meet NACOR academic requirements and criteria for training licensed opticians in Canada. Accredited programs are required to meet rigorous standards that ensure opticians are properly trained as experts in their field.
An example of an unaccredited program would be a training program offered in a country outside of Canada. Another example would be a program in Canada that has not accredited by NACOR. Some unaccredited programs offer quick study courses that claim to train students to be opticians, but there is a lot more involved in that training than a course can teach you in such a short amount of time.
For this reason, we recommend that individuals who are interested in becoming opticians and have no prior experience or education in a related field should apply to an accredited opticianry program.
However, if you have attended an unaccredited training institution or have background in optics or health care, you may be eligible to become an optician through the PLAR process.
What is PLAR?
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
Suite 900 – 200 Granville St.
Toll Free 1-888-771-6755
Saskatchewan College of Opticians
#13-350 103rd Street East
The College of Opticians of Ontario
#300 – 90 Adelaide St. West
Nova Scotia College of Dispensing Opticians
Halifax Professional Centre
Suite 342, 5991 Spring Garden Road
The Dispensing Opticians Board of Newfoundland and Labrador
P.O. Box 2552
St. Johns, NL
Alberta College & Association of Opticians
Suite 201, 2528 Ellwood Dr.
The Opticians of Manitoba
215-1080 Portage Ave.
Toll Free: 1-855-346-3715
Opticians Association of New Brunswick
P.O. Box 6743,
RPO Brunswick Square
Saint John, NB
P.E.I. Board of Dispensing Opticians
P.O. Box 20140, RPO Sherwood
Every province handles the PLAR a little differently but in general, you can expect the following:
The provincial regulatory body will provide you with an application or registration package. You will be asked to provide various documents, including any applicable education or work experience.
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 experience dispensing eyeglasses and fitting contact lenses (if applicable).
The interview will be divided into three categories:
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 fitter as well as an eyeglass dispenser in order to register. In this case, you would be required to answer question from all three sections
The approach is conversational. The interviewers will also provide you with hypothetical scenarios where you will give proposed courses of action. The interview will be about 3 hours long if you complete all 3 sections, 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:
As with the CBI, some provinces do not require you to be a qualified contact lens fitter in order to become a registered optician, and you may therefore only need to complete two sections.
Each section will provide you with a series of multiple choice questions. You will have 5 hours to complete the three sections, and 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 CGA and interview results. From this evaluation, the Committee will determine what you need to do next to become a licensed optician.
After the Registration Committee assesses all of the information gathered they will come to a decision. There are two possible outcomes of PLAR:
1. 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.
2. 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.
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).
After successfully challenging the exam, applicants become eligible to register as an optician across Canada.
Part of each examination is theoretical and the rest requires the candidate to demonstrate a required level of skill as outlined in the National Competencies for Canadian Opticians document.
PLAR candidates can expect to pay a document assessment and/or application fee, Competency Gap Analysis (CGA) fee and Case Based Interview (CBI) fee.
For more detailed information about the various fees, please visit the Licensing Calculator page or contact the provincial regulatory bodies directly.