Frequently Asked Questions - Dispensing Optician

What are the changes to the exam and why?

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.

Do I need to do anything if I am currently licensed as a dispensing optician in Washington State?

No. Current license holders are not affected by changes to the examination and do not need to take any action.

Will there still be written and practical exams?

Yes. Two written and two practical components are given in computer-based formats:

  • ABO basic exam
  • ABO practical exam
  • NCLE basic exam
  • NCLE practical exam

More information about the exams is on the ABO and NCLE website.

When did this change happen?

Effective March 15, 2018, successful completion of all four exams (the ABO basic exam, the ABO practical exam, the NCLE basic exam and the NCLE practical exam) is required for Washington State licensure.

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.

Do I still need to apply for my license through the Department of Health and are there other changes to the licensing requirements?

Yes, you will still need to apply through the Department of Health for a dispensing optician license. Changes to the exam are for the exam only and do not affect the other licensing requirements under WAC 246-824-040. Since September 1, 2017, a new licensing application and $100 fee is required for dispensing optician licensure.

Do I still need to apply for a license if I passed the ABO and NCLE exams on or after June 1, 2015?

Yes. Changes to the exams are for the exams only and don't affect the licensing requirements under WAC 246-824-040. There are no changes to the licensing requirements. To be eligible for licensure, applicants must:

  1. Be eighteen years or more of age;
  2. Graduate from an accredited high school or receive a general equivalency degree;
  3. Complete one of the following:
    1. At least six thousand hours of certified apprenticeship training that must be completed in no less than three years as required under chapter 18.34 RCW; or
    2. An accredited opticianry course as described in WAC 246-824-050; or
    3. Been principally engaged in practicing as a dispensing optician not in the state of Washington for five years;
  4. Successfully pass one of the following examinations:
    1. The state examination offered on or before August 31, 2017;
    2. On or after June 1, 2015, the basic competency examination, basic contact lens examination, and the practical examinations from ABO-NCLE. This requirement can also be met by successfully passing the ABO-NCLE advanced competency examination, advanced contact lens examination, and the practical examinations on or after June 1, 2015; and
  5. Meet any other requirements in law.
How do I register to take the ABO and NCLE exams?

Candidates will need to register for the exams directly through the ABO and NCLE. ABO and NCLE exam fees per candidate are $225 per exam for each of the basic exams, and $75 each per exam for the practical exams. The ABO-NCLE organization offers a 30 percent discount, bringing the total cost down from $600 to $420 per test taker. In order to take advantage of this discount the exam candidate must pay for all four exams at one time, and must successfully complete the exams within a two-year period. There is no discount on the reexamination fee. Registration information is online.

How do I apply for my license?

The new licensing application and fee have been required since September 1, 2017. The new application is available on our Applications and Forms webpage.

Are there fee changes?

Yes. Moving to the ABO and NCLE national exams will require candidates to pay exam fees directly to the ABO and NCLE. However, there will still be a cost to the department to receive and process applications for initial licensure. In addition, changes to the dispensing optician fee schedule will be made to correspond with the fees under WAC 246-824-990.

Exam fees: ABO and NCLE exam fees per candidate are $225 per exam for each of the basic exams, and $75 per exam for each of the practical exams. The ABO-NCLE organization offers a 30 percent discount, bringing the total cost down from $600 to $420 per test taker. In order to take advantage of this discount the exam candidate must pay for all four exams at one time, and must successfully complete the exams within a two-year period. There is no discount on the reexamination fee.

Licensing fees: Since September 1, 2017, people applying for a dispensing optician license are required to complete a new licensing application and pay a licensing fee of $100.

Will I have an opportunity to retake sections(s) of the state- administered exam that I have not passed after the August exam?

No. The August 28-29, 2017 exam was the last opportunity to pass all sections of the state-administered exam. Applicants who didn't pass all sections will be required to pass all parts of all four of the ABO and NCLE exams.

How can I find out more information about the ABO and NCLE exams?

Registration information for the ABO and NCLE exams, including test sites, exam schedule, deadlines, study guides, and practice exams is on the ABO-NCLE website.

Who can I contact if I have more questions?

Please contact the Customer Service Center at 360-236-4700 or send them an email.

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