Senior Optical Assistants Course (Level 4 Diploma)
There are no specific entry requirements. However, candidates will be expected to be able to demonstrate knowledge and experience gained in practice as well as an understanding of mathematical concepts such as basic algebra and trigonometry. If candidates do not have a GCSE in Maths or a Science we recommend they begin with the 'Optical Assistant' course for a more introductory approach.
For the 2019/20 academic year: Year 1 = £1000, Year 2 = £1250 Please note, these costs do not include exams. For details of these costs please contact ABDO Examinations and Registry on 01227 732921.
Online distance learning combined with in practice tasks.
All modules are assessed by formal examination in both theory and practical terms. These examinations are run and administered by ABDO Examinations
Course start date
The Level 4 Diploma for Optical Assistants is a qualification for optical assistants working at a higher level. 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 provides the next step for people who want to develop their career further.
The course is split into 2 pathways to allow students to specialise in their area of preference. The 2 pathways are detailed as follows:
PATHWAY 1: RETAIL PRACTICE AND MANAGEMENT
This pathway through the Senior Optical Assistant course is for you if you wish to enhance your retail knowledge and potentially move into management. It provides you with the fundamental skills of an optical assistant teamed with retail business principles. An end of year project concentrates your learning into formulating a business plan with a focus on continued growth of the practice.
PATHWAY 2: OPTICS AND DISPENSING SKILLS
This pathway through the Senior Optical Assistant course is for you if you wish to progress onto the ABDO College course in Ophthalmic Dispensing leading to the FBDO qualification. The core learning on the course lays the foundation of knowledge required in both Theory of Optics and Theory of Ophthalmic Lenses. Completion of this pathway may allow successful candidates entry into Year 2 of the Fellowship Dispensing Diploma on completion of the ABDO PQE Examinations.
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.
Year 1 consists of four mandatory units (1, 2, 3 and 4) plus one pathway specific unit
Year 2 consists of two mandatory units (5 and 12) plus two pathway specific 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 the two year course.
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 pathway unit
Year 2 Examinations
- Written papers on Unit 5 and a further pathway 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.
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
Pathway specific units
These modules will be studied as well as the mandatory modules detailed above.
Pathway 1: RETAIL PRACTICE AND MANAGEMENT
Module 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 appliances.
Module 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.
Module 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. Candidates will be required to submit a written business/development plan which brings together the learning developed during the course and which could be of benefit to their own practice. The work will be undertaken in the candidate’s own time and submitted by a given deadline towards the end of year two.
Pathway 2: OPTICS AND DISPENSING SKILLS
Module 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.
Module 9: THEORY OF OPTICS 12 CREDITS • The propagation of light formation. • Reflection. • Refraction at a plane surface. • Refraction at curved surfaces. • Photometry. • The use of colour in optics. • How to use thin lenses.
Module 10: THEORY OF OPHTHALMIC LENSES 12 CREDITS: How to measure interpupillary and centration distances. • Lens form. • The parameters of sphero-cylindrical lenses. • The parameters of toric lenses. • Lens measure and lens thickness. • The nature of ophthalmic prisms and prismatic effects. • Elements of ametropia. • Line foci and disc of least confusion.
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.