Education and Certification Requirements to Become an Ocularist

As Jeff entered his senior year as a biology major, he had no plans for a career after college. He knew he liked people but didn’t want to become a doctor. People who saw his paintings called him artistic. When he met a friend of an instructor, his interest peaked upon hearing that his new acquaintance was an ocularist. That night, Jeff began to research the training and certification requirements to enter this field.

What is an Ocularist?

An ocularist is a skilled individual who designs, makes and fits artificial eyes. According to The Prosthetic Eye Guide, the challenge for this type of medical professional is to use the latest technology to produce artificial eyes that fit well and that are also both artistic and lifelike. Another responsibility is making sure patients know how to properly care for their artificial eyes. Most also ocularists also conduct periodic exams of their patients to make sure there are no problems using their prostheses.

Individuals who are successful in this profession have a number of skills. In addition to artistic talent, they usually have a background in biology, optometry, medical arts and illustration.

The American Society of Ocularists (ASO) reports that the production of artificial eyes has been around for centuries. The first mention of prostheses for eyes dates to Roman and Egyptian priests in the fifth century B.C. These painted devices were attached to cloth. Individuals wore them outside the eye socket. Most of today’s high-tech prosthetic eyes are made of acrylic material.

Education and Training

The focus of leaning to be an ocularist is hands-on training. Currently, no schools offer programs in ocularistry.

In order to enter the profession, a prospective student must snag an apprenticeship. Since no organizations or associations offer placement arrangements for these programs, it’s up to the individual interested in this profession to locate an ocularist who is able to hire and train an apprentice.

The ASO Apprentice program requires individuals to study all aspects of ocular prosthetics with a board-certified ocularist. At least 10,000 hours – 5 years – must be spent in practical training. An additional requirement is completion of 750 credits of related courses offered by the ASO program.

When an apprentice has completed all these requirements, he or she is awarded the title of Diplomate of the American Society of Ocularists.


Many states have no licensing requirements. The ASO provides training for individuals planning to take the National Examining Board of ocularists (NEBO) exams for certification. These exams can be taken at the Annual and Mid-Year ASO meetings every year. The annual meeting is scheduled in conjunction with the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

The certification courses cover seven practice areas: fitting theory, materials, processing and fabrication techniques, iris and sclera tinting techniques, orbital anatomy and physiology, patient care/office hygiene and office management/communication techniques.

Each class lasts one hour and includes a lecture by an individual or a presentation by a panel. Most include audiovisual material and a question-and-answer period.

One portion of fulfilling the educational and certification requirements for an ocularist is participating in workshops at ASO meetings. Members and students have an opportunity in these workshops to gain hands-on experience working with a variety of materials and techniques.


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