Continuing Education

Questions and Answers for Ophthalmic Dispensers and Fitters of Contact Lenses

General Information | Does This Requirement Apply to Me? | Dates and Amounts of Continuing Education | Subjects and Providers of Continuing Education | Record-Keeping and Reporting | Further Information

General Information

Legislation enacted by the Legislature and the Governor in 1997 requires that ophthalmic dispensers renewing registration of a license on or after January 1, 1999 take continuing education. Ophthalmic dispensers must take 0.5 hours of approved continuing education coursework for each month of their registration (18 contact hours in a standard three-year registration period), with no more than 3 hours in study related to the dispensing and fitting of contact lenses.

Ophthalmic dispensers who are certified as contact lens practitioners must take 0.56 hours of approved continuing education coursework for each month of their registration (20 contact hours in a standard three-year registration period), with at least 10 hours in study related to the dispensing and fitting of contact lenses.

No more than three (3) hours per registration period may be in self-study courses, and no more than three (3) hours per registration period [one (1) hour per year] can be in the areas of office procedures, organizational skills and practice management.

All coursework must be taken from an approved provider.

The statute that applies to these requirements is also available here. If you need additional information, you may contact the State Board for Ophthalmic Dispensing at 518-474-3817 ext. 180 or by e-mail at odbd@mail.nysed.gov.


Does This Requirement Apply to Me?

  1. Am I required to take continuing education?

    Every ophthalmic dispenser wishing to practice in New York State must take continuing education. The Education Department assumes that you intend to practice if you are registered. Therefore, if you are registered and are beyond your initial term of registration, you must comply with these requirements.

    The Department may grant an adjustment to the requirement for poor health, certified by a physician; a specific physical or mental disability, certified by an appropriate health care professional; extended duty with the armed forces; or for extreme hardship which, in the Department's judgment, makes it impossible for the licensee to comply. Requests for an adjustment to the continuing education requirement should be made as far in advance of your registration renewal date as possible. You may complete and submit the Registration Remittance Addendum ( PDF 28 KB).


Dates and Amounts of Continuing Education

  1. How much continuing education must I take?

    Ophthalmic dispensers must take 0.5 hours of approved continuing education coursework for each month of their registration (18 contact hours in a standard three-year registration period), with no more than 3 hours in study related to the dispensing and fitting of contact lenses.

    Ophthalmic dispensers who are certified as contact lens practitioners must take 0.56 hours of approved continuing education coursework for each month of their registration (20 contact hours in a standard three-year registration period), with at least 10 hours in study related to the dispensing and fitting of contact lenses.

  2. What is an hour of continuing education?

    An hour is one contact hour of at least 50 minutes in duration.

  3. May I count continuing education hours I've already taken?

    You may only count those hours taken during your current registration period. For example, a licensee whose registration period runs from July 1, 2003 to June 30, 2006 may only count continuing education credits earned between those dates.

  4. Must I spread continuing education courses evenly over my registration period?

    No. You may earn continuing education credits at any time during your current registration period. However, credits may not be carried over to the next registration period.

  5. I just graduated from a professional program or completed an approved traineeship, received my license, and am in my first registration period. Do I immediately need to begin taking continuing education?

    No. Practitioners are exempt from the continuing education requirement during their first three-year registration period. Beginning with their second registration period, ophthalmic dispensers must take 0.5 hours of approved continuing education coursework for each month of their registration period; ophthalmic dispensers certified as contact lens practitioners must take 0.56 hours of approved continuing education coursework for each month of their registration period.

  6. I just received notification of registration and it is less than (or more than) three years in length. Am I still expected to complete 18 hours (20 hours for contact lens) of continuing education?

    No. Usually the second registration period is adjusted so that renewals occur during the licensee's birth month. When this happens, you must calculate how many continuing education hours you are required to complete. To do this, you must count the length of the registration period in months and, for ophthalmic dispensers, multiply that number by 0.5 hours; for contact lens practitioners, multiply that number by 0.56 hours. For example, you are issued a registration effective 07/01/03 and it expires 10/31/05. This registration period is for 28 months, rather than the standard 36 month registration period. If you are licensed in basic dispensing only, the continuing education requirement is 14.0 hours (28 months x 0.5 hours per month); if you are certified as a contact lens practitioner, the continuing education requirement is 15.68 hours, which is rounded to 16.0 hours (28 months x 0.56 hours per month).

  7. I was just licensed in New York after practicing in another state. Do I immediately need to begin taking continuing education?

    Yes. You will need to take continuing education at the rate described in Question 2 above. You would be exempt only in the first three years after receiving your very first, original license.


Subjects and Providers of Continuing Education

  1. Who are approved providers?

    The New York State Education Department will recognize continuing education for the purpose of registration only from the following two entities:

    1. Sponsors approved directly by the Department.

      There are sponsors approved directly by the Department as providers of continuing education. You may request a print copy of this information by calling 518-474-3817 ext. 180 or by e-mailing odbd@mail.nysed.gov.

      Continuing education credit will not be accepted from providers such as national professional organizations unless such organizations apply to the Department and are recognized as approved sponsors.

    2. Colleges, universities, and other degree-granting institutions offering degrees (e.g., A.A.S., B.S., M.S.) and credit-bearing certificate and diploma programs that are registered by the Education Department or accredited by an equivalent accrediting agency, for courses in those registered or accredited programs.

      The Education Department's Office of Higher Education has an "Institutional Directory" listing all degree-granting institutions in the State, which is available on their Web site at www.highered.nysed.gov/ocue/. You may also request this information by calling 518-474-2593.

  2. May I count continuing education hours completed through an organization before they've received their approval as a sponsor?

    No. The Department will accept continuing education contact hours only from sponsors approved by the State Board for Ophthalmic Dispensing. Courses provided by an organization before receiving approval as a sponsor will not be accepted, as the Department is not able to approve sponsors retroactively.

  3. Is there any limitation on the subject matter of the courses I take?

    Yes. The course must contribute to professional practice in ophthalmic dispensing. Acceptable subjects include the following areas:

    • Ophthalmic optics
    • Contact lens optics
    • Theoretical optics
    • Lens materials
    • Lens design
    • Frame materials
    • Ocular physiology
    • Ocular anatomy
    • Prescription analysis
    • Ocular anomalies
    • Ocular pharmacology
    • Dispensing
    • Patient counseling
    • Infection control
    • Fitting and adjusting
    • Other topics that will contribute to the professional practice of the field of ophthalmic dispensing/contact lens dispensing.
    • Other topics of health care, law and ethics related to ophthalmic dispensing that will contribute to the health and welfare of the public.
    • Practice management, office procedures, organizational skills. Participation is limited to three hours per three-year registration period.
  4. May I count toward my requirement a continuing education course that I teach?

    Yes. You may count once during a registration period the hours in a continuing education course you teach that an approved sponsor offers in an acceptable area of study.

  5. May I take the same course more than once during a registration period and count the credits earned for both courses?

    No. The purpose of continuing education is to further your knowledge and skills in the profession. Repeating the same course within a three-year period does not meet the intent of the law.

  6. What types of continuing education are acceptable?

    Only formal courses in appropriate subjects offered by approved sponsors are acceptable. Both formal self-study courses offered by an approved sponsor and formal courses in which you interact with an instructor are acceptable. No more than three hours of formal self-study courses will be accepted toward meeting the total hours required.

  7. Are "live" courses limited to those in which I'm the same room with the instructor?

    No. We consider a telecourse or teleconference in which you and the instructor can speak directly with each other to be a "live" course. Similarly, a course in which you and other practitioners discuss a taped presentation with a facilitator's assistance is a live course. A course offered by computer in which you interact directly with the instructor is a "live" course. On the other hand, a televised lecture with no means of direct interaction would not be acceptable a "live" course, even if it is a live telecast.

  8. May I earn continuing education credits on the Internet?

    Yes, if they are offered by an organization that has been approved by the Education Department as a sponsor of ophthalmic dispensing and contact lens dispensing continuing education. Internet courses are considered "live" courses because there is an opportunity for interaction with an instructor via e-mail. There is no limit to the number of credits earned in this manner.


Record-Keeping and Reporting

  1. What records will I have to keep?

    You'll need to keep, for six years from the date you completed each course, the original certificate of completion provided by the sponsor. The following five items of information will be found on that completion certificate:

    1. title of the course or program and any identification number assigned to it by the sponsor;
    2. number of hours completed;
    3. the sponsor's name and any identifying number;
    4. verification by the sponsor of your attendance; and
    5. the date and location of the program or course.
  2. What will I have to file?

    The application form to renew your registration on which you will certify completion of the required hours, together with the required registration renewal fee.

  3. Do I have to file copies of my records of continuing education when I renew registration of my license?

    No - just the registration renewal application, which includes a statement indicating that you have completed the required continuing education coursework. However, you should maintain these records in the event that you are audited by the Education Department and are asked to make them available to us. The Department conducts random audits of such records to assure compliance with the continuing education requirement.

  4. What will I have to provide in an audit of my continuing education records?

    You will have to provide to the Department a copy of the certificate of completion that was issued by the sponsor of each continuing education course completed during the registration period being audited. Please note that a summary report of your continuing education activities, whether provided by an employer or the ABO/NCLE, is not acceptable.

  5. What if the audit reveals discrepancies?

    You may be subject to disciplinary proceedings for professional misconduct. Willfully making or filing a false report is unprofessional conduct, according to Section 29.1 of the Rules of the Board of Regents. Penalties may include censure and reprimand, fine, and/or suspension or revocation of your license.

  6. What if I fail to complete the required number of hours by the end of my registration period?

    The Department, in its discretion, may issue you a conditional registration. This non-renewable, conditional registration would be valid for one year. To be granted such a conditional registration you would have to agree to:

    • remedy the deficiency during the 12-month period of conditional registration;
    • complete, within the year of the conditional registration, the regular continuing education requirement at the rate of 0.5 contact hours per month (0.56 hours per month for ophthalmic dispensers who are certified as contact lens practitioners), in addition to the contact hours required to make up the deficiencies from the previous registration period;
    • complete and submit the Registration Remittance Addendum ( PDF 28 KB);
    • submit, at the end of the conditional registration period, copies of the completion certificates for all continuing education courses taken; and
    • pay the regular registration fee for the conditional year and pay the registration fee again in order to be registered for the remaining two years of the registration period.
  7. What if I don't meet the continuing education requirement and simply don't renew my registration?

    This is fine, so long as you are not practicing your profession. However, if you practice your profession after the Department has denied renewal of your registration for failure to report completion of the required contact hours of continuing education, you are subject to disciplinary proceedings for professional misconduct.


Further Information

  1. Where can I obtain more information?

    You may contact:

    The Office of the State Board for Ophthalmic Dispensing
    New York State Education Department
    89 Washington Avenue
    Albany, NY 12234
    Telephone: 518-474-3817 ext. 180
    Fax: 518-402-5944
    E-mail: odbd@mail.nysed.gov

Last Updated: December 16, 2009