The National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE) is a not-for-profit organization that, along with the American Board of Opticianry (ABO), offers certification of ophthalmic dispensers on a voluntary basis. Ophthalmic dispensers are professionals who provide services relating to spectacles, refraction, and the fitting of contact lenses. The NCLE aims to help the public and others who work in the ophthalmic profession by identifying qualified ophthalmic dispensers who have passed professionally developed examinations and earned certification. Ophthalmic dispensers who have earned the certification designation are recognized on an official basis both publically and professionally as having met national qualification and competency standards. Certification benefits employers who strive to hire competent opticians and contact lens technicians; certification also benefits the public by providing assurance that their eye wear requirements will be fulfilled both carefully and with competence.
The NCLE offers the Contact Lens Registry Examination (CLRE) for those who work in the field of contact lens dispensing and who wish to obtain their certification. To earn certification, a passing score on the examination is required. The CLRE is developed by contact lens fitters appointed by the NCLE who perform a job analysis and then create the test specifications. The Professional Examination Service (PES) is a testing service that assists in the creation of the CLRE by reviewing the proposed examination questions and format to ensure proper testing principles are used as well as appropriate style and grammar. The CLRE questions are developed with the intent of testing a certification candidate’s ability to recall knowledge and also their ability to apply that knowledge to specific functions relating to dispensing.
The CLRE is offered twice each year: in May and November. The examination is open to anyone who is at least 18 years of age and has a high school diploma or a general equivalency degree (GED). Some state licensing boards have specific regulations that must be followed so it is important for applicants to confirm the requirements in the state where they live. Anyone who is interested in taking the CLRE must call NCLE or send NCLE an email to request a registration packet. NCLE advises that, while there is no experience required to take the CLRE, if a candidate has completed an optical school program or has several years of direct, hands-on experience the candidate will likely be more successful at passing the examination.
The CLRE is comprised of eight main content areas. Each content area weighs differently toward the overall score so it is important for applicants to understand the value of each content area and study accordingly. The eight content areas are as follows:
- Ocular, Anatomy, Physiology and Pathology – 10%
- Refractive Errors – 8%
- Instrumentation for Measurement and Observation – 16%
- Prefitting – 14%
- Diagnostic Fitting – 18%
- Dispensing – 10%
- Follow-Up – 19%
- Regulatory – 5%
Those who pass the CLRE will receive a certificate from NCLE that they can display publically. Certification must be renewed every three years. Recertification requires the individual to satisfy ongoing continuing education requirements and pay a renewal fee. When NCLE mails the individual their certificate, they will also send information that explains the renewal requirements and what the individual can do to meet them. By satisfying continuing education requirements and obtaining proper recertification, the individual demonstrates their commitment to ongoing excellence and competence in the job they perform.
CLRE Examination Specifics
The National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE) organization offers voluntary certification of ophthalmic dispensers. Ophthalmic dispensers provide services relating to spectacles, refraction, and the fitting of contact lenses. The NCLE offers the Contact Lens Registry Examination (CLRE) for those who work in the field of contact lens dispensing and who wish to obtain their certification. To earn certification, a passing score on the examination is required. Contact lens fitters are appointed by the NCLE to develop the CLRE. The examination questions are developed with the intent of testing a certification candidate’s ability to recall knowledge as well as their ability to apply that knowledge to specific functions relating to dispensing.
Why Take the CLRE Examination
The National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE) organization offers an examination as part of the process for ophthalmic dispensers to earn their voluntary certification. Ophthalmic dispensers are practitioners who provide services relating to spectacles, refraction, and the fitting of contact lenses. The Contact Lens Registry Examination (CLRE) is provided by the NCLE for those who work in the field of contact lens dispensing and who wish to obtain a professional certification. Why is certification important? Successfully passing the CLRE examination and obtaining certification has many benefits.
By receiving certification from the NCLE, practitioners demonstrate to supervisors and co-workers, to others in the industry, and to the public in general that they are both competent and qualified to practice their profession. Certification is indicative of someone who is motivated to maintain the latest job-related skills and knowledge, of someone who takes pride in what they do. When ophthalmic dispensers post their NCLE certification in their work area, customers and patients alike will know that the practitioner is capable and will handle their eye wear needs with competence and quality care.
Another benefit to passing the CLRE and obtaining certification is that the practitioner will enjoy increased opportunities for employment and greater earnings potential. Employers know that NCLE certification is a standard of competence, and they recognize that a practitioner who is sufficiently motivated to study and take the CLRE will likely be equally motivated to do well on the job. In a recent survey, of those employers who responded, 28% require their employees to obtain certification, 75% demonstrate a hiring preference for job applicants who possess certification, 75% pay newly-hired personnel who are certified a higher starting salary, and 40% favor employees with NCLE certification for job promotions. The difference in earnings between a certified professional and one who is not certified eventually equates to thousands of dollars each year, once the ophthalmic dispenser has obtained approximately ten years of direct job experience.
Practitioners should also understand that NCLE certification is a national standard. While individual states may impose separate licensing requirements, those state licenses may not be recognized elsewhere. By passing the CLRE and earning certification, the individual can rest assured that their certification is recognized in every state and also in many foreign countries. And, the NCLE is the only credential an ophthalmic dispenser can use in those states that do not have separate licensing requirements; in those states, the NCLE certification sets the individual apart from others who are ophthalmic dispensers but who are not certified. Another important reason to take the CLRE is the fact that 90% of those states who do require licensing rely on the CLRE as the basis for their respective state license. What is more, NCLE certification is required for ophthalmic dispensers who move into a state and must apply for a license to practice.
Having NCLE certification, whether basic or advanced, and renewing it every three years is important for anyone who wants to distinguish themself as qualified and competent, especially in today’s health care environment. Professionals who have worked hard to pass the CLRE and obtain certification have taken a key step toward ensuring they will be able to continue providing their services.
NCLE Certification Examinations Overview
The National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE) organization offers voluntary certification of ophthalmic dispensers. Ophthalmic dispensers provide services relating to spectacles, refraction, and the fitting of contact lenses. The intent of the NCLE is to help the public and other ophthalmic professionals by identifying qualified ophthalmic dispensers who have passed professionally developed examinations and earned certification.
NCLE offers two levels of certification: basic and advanced. In order to receive certification at each level, an individual must take and successfully pass two examinations. The Contact Lens Registry Examination (CLRE) is given in order to receive basic, or entry level certification in the dispensing of contact lenses. To be eligible to take the CLRE, the individual must be at least 18 years of age and have a high school diploma or equivalency degree. Individuals with several years of direct experience or who have completed a program from an optical school may have more success in passing the CLRE. The CLRE is comprised of 125 multiple choice questions covering five main subject areas. Those who pass the CLRE will receive a certificate from the NCLE that indicates they have passed the examination. The certificate serves to both enhance the individual’s resume and credentials and also to assure the public that they are qualified and competent to perform their job.
Once the contact lens dispenser has passed the CLRE and obtained certification, he/she can then go on to earn advanced certification. To earn advanced certification the practitioner must have attained additional years of work experience in the field and complete a set curriculum of advanced educational courses. At this point the individual must then successfully pass the Advanced Examination. Professionals who have achieved advanced certification are then sufficiently prepared to work in a large variety of settings, for example, university hospitals, independent and commercial opticians, optometric offices, as well as for manufacturers of optical products.
The basic certification that is obtained by successfully passing the CLRE provides a sound first step for the individual who wishes to pursue advanced certification. Both the CLRE and the Advanced Examination cover very similar main content areas, including: Pre-fit, Preparation, and Evaluation; Determine Lens Type and Design Contact Lens Parameters; Customer/Patient Instruction and Delivery Procedures; Follow-up Visits with Customer/Patient; and Practice Management – Professional Relations. The Advanced Examination includes several additional topics: Personnel Relations; Customer Relations; Sales/Marketing; Business; Physical Management; and Professional Development.
By passing the CLRE, the certification conferred by the NCLE will be valid for a period of three years. The practitioner must earn continuing education credits and pay an $125 renewal fee within that three-year timeframe in order to maintain certification. The practitioner must earn 18 credits for continuing education courses that have been approved by the NCLE. If the practitioner has not completed the continuing education requirements during the requisite window, they will be able to complete them during a fourth year; if this happens, however, the practitioner’s certification is suspended until proper renewal has been obtained. As an alternative to earning the continuing education credits, if the individual is in either the third year of their renewal cycle or the fourth year, which is the suspension year, they may also opt to re-take the Contact Lens Registry Examination again in order to obtain their NCLE certification renewal.