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5 Things You Need to Practice Optometry in Canada

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As a new graduate, are you planning to practice optometry in Canada? Here are some costs and logistics to navigate as you get started!

5 Things You Need to Practice Optometry in Canada
If you are starting your career in optometry, Ontario is a wonderful place to consider. Whether you are an American or Canadian trained optometrist, there are several steps and associated costs to know ahead of time before you can begin practicing in the province.
Firstly, as a graduate of an optometry school, having the burden of loans can be overwhelming at times. It is important to have a plan for paying off your loan and reducing the amount of debt remaining when you finish school. However, not knowing some of the set fees and annual memberships ahead of time will further contribute to your debt pool. It is also important to have a general understanding of additional fees that are mandatory when you decide to practice in Ontario.

Register for Canadian Board Exam

In order to register to practice in Canada, you must have successfully completed the written and interactive component of the Canadian optometry board exam held during the Spring or Fall. The exam fee is $5900. For more information on registration and dates for the board exam, please visit the official Optometry Examining Board of Canada website. Even if you have already successfully passed or completed all three-parts of your American board exams from National Board of Examiners in Optometry (NBEO), it is irrelevant for the registration process if you want to practice in Canada. Some optometry students may have completed the American board exam for experience and practice before taking their Canadian board since all parts of the written and interactive testing can usually be completed over a few days.

Register for College of Optometrists of Ontario/ Jurisprudence Exam

In order to practice in Ontario, you must first register with the College of Optometrists of Ontario.
In addition to registering with the College, you will have to pass the Jurisprudence exam. The Jurisprudence exam is administered six times per year. For more details on dates, please refer to the College of Optometrists of Ontario website. Although it is recommended to attend the Jurisprudence seminar, it is not required. This seminar highlights the details of some of the College’s policies and expectations of Ontario optometrists. Many optometrists are able to study on their own through the resource materials provided by the College and candidates are permitted to use this resource binder during the open-book exam.
The one-time application fee with the College, including Jurisprudence Seminar and Exam fee, is $474.60 (including the 13% HST). A certification fee upon completion of all the registration requirements is $29.38 (including the 13% HST). Annual College membership fee is $1067.85 (including the 13% HST).

Certificate for Professional Liability Insurance

Additionally, it is important to know that all members of the College are required to buy professional liability insurance prior to practicing in Ontario. The annual rate for some policies may range from $740 to $1080 depending on the limits and premiums of the coverage plan. There are different insurance companies that offer professional liability insurance specific for the requirements set by the College.
All of this information can be found on the College of Optometrists of Ontario's website.

Register for an OHIP billing number

Once a Certificate of Registration is issued and membership is activated with the College of Optometrists of Ontario, you may apply for an Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) billing number. This number is different from your optometry license number. In order for eye care professionals and other health professionals to submit claims for OHIP-insured services to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, every provider must apply and register for this billing number. Please visit the Ministry of Health website for more details.
Regardless of where you will practice, and whether you see a high prevalence of OHIP-insured patients or very few, you should always register as long as you are a practicing provider in Ontario. Most ophthalmologists will require your OHIP billing number indicated in the referral request.

Register for Ontario Associate of Optometrists (Optional)

Other fees that may add to your expenses as a new graduate can include membership dues if you want to join the Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO) and Canadian Association of Optometrists (CAO). There are significant savings when joining as a first year graduate. For example, your first year membership is at a discounted rate of $280. Joining the OAO offers the benefits of specially-priced professional liability insurance for new graduates, access to view and post in forum classifieds when seeking work opportunities, and other important updates to the scope of practice regulations in Ontario.
After the first year from graduation, the membership fee increases annually for the next three years and then remains constant. The annual membership fee for optometrists who have been in practice for 4 or more years is $2800.

Are you ready to practice optometry in Canada?

With a better understanding of the mandatory fees for practicing in Ontario, you can get a good handle on your finances and budget planning. The transition from schooling to practicing can be quite an exciting journey once you are a licensed optometrist in Ontario. Visiting resourceful websites such as the College of Optometrists of Ontario and Ontario Association of Optometrists can give you a great starting point to the beginning of your career of optometry in the province. The end of your debt may be just around the corner once the job opportunities arise.
Kimberly Chan, OD
About Kimberly Chan, OD

Dr. Kimberly Chan is a Canadian optometrist practicing in Toronto, Ontario. She graduated from New England College of Optometry in 2012. She wants to share her passion of optometry with others, continue to inspire and mentor those that are pursuing this career path and help build the community of support among health professionals. Feel free to visit and her Instagram @DrKimberlyChan profile to learn more about her and her practice.

Kimberly Chan, OD
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