The Doctor of Optometry degree granted by the University of Melbourne is the only graduate optometry program offered in Australia. Graduates of this program aiming to practice optometry in Canada are required to complete an International Optometric Bridging Program (IOBP) such as the one offered by the University of Waterloo in Ontario.
According to the Canadian Association of Optometrists website, international graduates are those who have obtained their optometric education from a school other than those accredited by the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education, the only accrediting body for professional optometric degree programs, optometric residency programs and optometric technician programs in the United States and Canada.
Steps to Practice in Canada
Step #1 Graduate with a Doctor of Optometry degree or equivalent
Step #2 Apply to the Federation of Optometric Authorities of Canada (FORAC)
You must first apply to FORAC to be allowed to register for the Internationally Graduated Optometrist Evaluating Exam (IGOEE).
The FORAC credential assessment is what determines if an applicant can challenge the IGOEE (and the requirements are all laid out on our website, along with a downloadable applicant guide).
Please note, FORAC requires a 4-year optometry program, and also 3 years of either undergraduate university science studies or full-time work experience as a licensed optometrist before applicants are permitted to apply to FORAC.
Step #3 Take the Internationally Graduated Optometrist Evaluating Examination (IGOEE)
Those approved will write the IGOEE, which will determine whether an applicant is able to proceed directly to the OEBC Exam & OSCE (step 4) or whether a bridging program is required first.
You should anticipate having to take the Bridging program as part of the certification process as it may be required.
Step #4 Complete the Canadian bridging program (if required)
Those who are not exempt must take a bridging program as follows:
Until 2021 – Take the International Optometric Bridging Program (IOBP)
The current IOBP costs nearly $50,998, runs one full year, and is a competitive application process (the program currently accepts 18 students). Bridging program is typically 48 weeks in length, 28 weeks of lectures followed by 20 weeks of clinical.
The IOBP is being discontinued in 2022, as the Waterloo School of Optometry and Vision Science transitions to an Advanced Standing program. For more information, please see the announcement on their website.
2021 & onward – Waterloo School of Optometry & Vision Science (WOVS) Advanced Standing Program
Waterloo is currently finalizing details for the WOVS and it is uncertain whether the WOVS program will have more places available in the program and what the costs will be.
The WOVS Advanced Standing Program provides optometrists educated outside Canada and the United States with a structured orientation to Canadian standards of optometric practice. The program provides qualified applicants with opportunities to gain the critical language, academic and clinical skills necessary for registration in Canada. IOBP Program Information (2019):
- Length: Orientation term, followed by 2 years (3rd and 4th years) of OD program.
- Number of spaces for 2021: 6; demand far exceeds this
Admission for the IOBP is based on IGOEE scores (above, step 3) that are placed in rank order. Meeting the minimum eligibility threshold on the IGOEE does not guarantee an offer of admission to the IOBP.
It is important to understand that the demand for the IOBP typically exceeds the program capacity.
Step #5 Pass the national exam
Administered by the Optometry Examining Board of Canada (OEBC), which consists of Written Exam and OSCE.
Step #6 Register with your provincial optometric regulatory authority
Practicing in Australia
The Optometry Council of Australia and New Zealand (OCANZ) is the accreditation authority responsible for performing accreditation functions for the optometry profession. These functions include assessment of programs of study in Australia and assessment of overseas qualified optometrists seeking registration in Australia. The University of Melbourne’s Doctor of Optometry is Accredited by OCANZ (approved until 2023).
Graduates of accredited Australian programs must register with the Optometry Board of Australia before practicing in the country. You can check out the OBA’s registration page for more information on the process.
Graduates of Melbourne’s Doctor of Optometry program are eligible to apply for Australian Registration (OCANZ). If successful, you will then be able to apply for general skilled migration to Australia.
Australia’s skilled visa programs are designed to target genuine skill shortages in Australia, one of those being optometrists. This means that there are specific visas available to individuals who are qualified to work or train as an optometrist in Australia and can meet all other requirements. You are strongly advised to contact the Australian Department of Home Affairs either here in Canada or while you are in Australia for full details.
Is the optometry bridging program mandatory?
Not always. The IGOEE will determine if the applicant is required to apply to the International Optometric Bridging Program (IOBP) or if the applicant is eligible to proceed directly to the Canadian Assessment in Competence in Optometry (OEBC exam) and objective structured clinical examination (OSCE).
What is the University of Waterloo International Optometric Bridging Program?
The University of Waterloo, in collaboration with the College of Optometrists of Ontario, offers the International Optometric Bridging Program (IOBP). Designed to provide optometrists educated outside Canada and the United States with a structured orientation to Canadian standards of optometric practice, the year-long program provides all qualified applicants with the critical language, academic and clinical skills necessary for registration in all provinces of Canada.
Please note, the IOBP is being discontinued in 2021, as the Waterloo School of Optometry and Vision Science transitions to an Advanced Standing program. For more information, please see the announcement on their website.
Can I practice optometry in Canada after graduating from Melbourne’s Doctor of Optometry?
According to the Canadian Association of Optometrists website, international graduates are considered to be those individuals who have obtained their optometric education from a school other than those accredited by the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education.
International graduates may be eligible to obtain a license or certificate of registration to practice in a province or territory in Canada. International graduates are encouraged to contact the optometric regulator in the province or territory in which they are interested to determine if they are eligible for a license or certificate of registration to practice in that jurisdiction. International graduates may be referred by an optometric regulator to the Director of the International Optometric Bridging Program of the University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario for an evaluation of their educational and professional credentials and an opinion on their equivalency to those required in a particular jurisdiction.