Level 4 Diploma for Optical Assistants
The Level 4 Diploma for Optical Assistants is WCSM’s new qualification for optical assistants working at a higher level. It is expected that holders of the qualification will be entitled to use the letters SMC (OA) after their name. It is tailored to the needs of those who aspire to become senior optical assistants and supervisors and provides the next step for people who want to develop their career further.
This is a two-year distance learning course. Students are assigned a personal tutor, and work through a series of assignments at their own pace (in general, at least six to eight hours of work per week is required.
There are no specific entry requirements. However, candidates will be expected to be able to demonstrate knowledge and experience gained in practice and may be able to obtain some exemptions from material already covered if they have already achieved a Level 3 Certificate or Diploma in Optical Support and/or a nationally accredited qualification in mathematics equivalent to grade C or above at GCSE within the last five years.
Year 1 consists of three mandatory units (1, 2 and 3) plus one optional unit
Year 2 consists of three mandatory units (4, 5 and 12) plus two optional units
To obtain the diploma, students must pass the six mandatory units (1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 12) and three optional units (from a choice of six). All these units are assessed by written examination. Unit 12 involves submission of a portfolio of evidence, on which further questions may be asked in a viva, and a practical assessment.
Students will be assessed at the end of each year of a two year course, but those claiming exemptions may be able to complete the qualification in a shorter time.
A typical pattern would be as follows:
Year 1 Examinations
- Written papers on each of Units 1, 2, 3 and 4
- Written paper on one optional unit
Year 2 Examinations
- Written papers on Unit 5 and a further two optional units
- Practical assessment (Unit 12)
The pass mark for each unit is 50%. If a candidate fails any unit, the unit can be retaken on its own, up to four times. All Units must be completed within a period of five years.
Exemption may be granted for units already taken and passed at Level 3 (Units 1 and 2), or for Unit 6 if the student can demonstrate they have equivalent current knowledge or have achieved a certificate equivalent to grade C or above in GCSE mathematics within the last five years.
The practical assessment requires submission of a portfolio of evidence which must be signed off by a GOC registered supervisor.
Unit 1: THE EYE AND THE PRINCIPLES OF OPTICS (9 Credits)
- The nature of light and the electromagnetic spectrum
- The reflection of light when incident at plane and curved surfaces
- The refraction of light when incident at plane and curved surfaces
- The basic anatomical structure of the eye and how it relates to refractive errors
Unit 2: PRINCIPLES OF OPTICAL RETAIL PRACTICE SUPPORT AND MANAGEMENT (12 Credits)
- The legal requirements that apply in an optical practice and their relevance to the role of an optical assistant
- The regulatory requirements governing optical practice
- The health and safety requirements in an optical practice and their relevance to the role of an optical assistant
- The skills required for communication in optical practice
- The principles of managing staff and developing individuals’ performance in an optical practice
- How to achieve excellent customer service in an optical practice.
- How to sell in an optical practice
- The rules of provision of services through a national health care scheme
Unit 3: THE PROVISION OF OPTICAL SCREENING AND CLINICAL SUPPORT (12 Credits)
- How to interpret optical prescriptions
- The applications of visual field screening
- The application of auto-refraction
- The application of non-contact tonometry in measuring intra-ocular pressure (IOP)
- The importance of fundus photography and optical coherence tomography (OCT)
- Eye conditions typically encountered in an optical practice
- The actions required when confronted with an ocular emergency and recognised pathways for referral.
Unit 4: THE PROVISION OF SPECTACLES IN OPTICAL PRACTICE (12 Credits)
- The design principles for spectacles
- The selection process for dispensing multi-focal lenses including bifocals and trifocals
- The measurements required prior to the supply of spectacles
- The materials used for spectacle lenses
- The principles of fitting spectacles
- The importance of the care of spectacles
- The use and limitations of protective eyewear
Unit 5: SUPPORTING THE PROVISION OF CONTACT LENSES IN OPTICAL PRACTICE (8 Credits)
- The legal implications of the supply of contact lenses and aftercare
- The key designs of contact lenses
- The wearing modalities of contact lenses.
- The principles of cleaning contact lenses
- How to advise those customers who have not complied with contact lens care regimens or replacement schedules.
- The principles of teaching contact lens insertion and removal and lens wear and care guidelines.
- The benefits of contact lens wear
At least three units must be selected
Unit 6: MATHEMATICS FOR OPTICAL ASSISTANTS (7 Credits)
- How to perform arithmetical calculations
- How to use a scientific calculator to solve mathematical problems in an optical environment
- The principles of geometry and how to apply them in optical practice
- How to extract information from line and bar graphs
- How to solve problems involving simple algebraic expressions
Unit 7: THE PROVISION OF LOW VISION AIDS IN OPTICAL PRACTICE (8 Credits)
- The terms relating to low vision
- The importance of the case history for patients with low vision
- The anatomy of the retina, and anterior chamber and related structures and the relevant pathological conditions
- The importance of illumination for low vision patients
- The care requirements for people with low vision
- The use of low vision appliance
Unit 8: ANTERIOR EYE AND OCULAR SUPPLEMENTS (8 Credits)
- The use of refractive surgery to correct vision
- The identification and management of blepharitis
- The identification and management of dry eye
- The use of ocular nutritional supplements
Unit 9: THEORY OF OPTICS (12 Credits)
- The propagation of light formation
- Refraction at a plane surface
- Refraction at curved surfaces
- The use of colour in optics
Unit 10: THEORY OF OPHTHALMIC LENSES (12 Credits)
- The nature of ophthalmic prisms and prismatic effects
- Elements of Ametropia
- Line foci and disc of least confusion
Unit 11: BUSINESS PRINCIPLES FOR OPTICAL PRACTICES (8 Credits)
- The factors for success of an optical retail practice
- How regulatory bodies, professional organisations and trade bodies influence the restrictions on marketing and advertising in optical practice
- The effectiveness of different marketing techniques
- The financial impact of decisions taken by optical assistants
- Systems typically used within an optical practice
Mandatory practical assessment
Unit 12: OPTICAL SKILLS IN PRACTICE (12 Credits)
- Effective patient communication
- Spectacle repairs and adjustments
- Spectacle dispensing
- Spectacle verification
- Optical screening
- Contact lenses
This unit will be assessed by submission of a portfolio of evidence, plus a viva and one day practical assessment.