Business Planning for Optometrists: 6 Ways to Become Registered and Licensed to Start an Optometry Practice (in Edmonton, Alberta)
This guide will help you learn the steps required to become registered and licensed as a Doctor of Optometry in Alberta.
Once you graduate from a School of Optometry, you can either: work as an associate in an existing practice before buying into the practice as a partner; buy an existing optometric practice from another optometrist; or, start a new optometry practice on your own or with partners.
In order to practice optometry in Alberta, it's mandatory to be a Regulated Member of the Alberta College of Optometrists (ACO). The ACO is the regulatory and licensing body for the profession of optometry in Alberta.
The ACO recognizes six primary categories of applicants:
1. New Graduate from an Accredited School of Optometry
2. New Graduate from a Non-Accredited School of Optometry
3. Existing Practitioner from Another Province in Canada
4. Existing Practitioner from Another Jurisdiction in the United States
5. Existing Practitioner from Another Jurisdiction Outside of Canada or the U.S.
6. Retired Practitioner
According to Statistics Canada, 90.60% of all optometry practices in Alberta were profitable in 2017.
Congratulations on starting a new career as a Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) in Alberta! You may have graduated from one of the accredited programs in North America, or you’ve attended a non-accredited program outside of North America, or perhaps you’re an existing practitioner from another province or country.
In any case, this guide will help you learn the steps required to become registered and licensed as a Doctor of Optometry in Edmonton, Alberta.
A recent survey by the Canadian Association of Optometrists found that:
+ Optometric practices in Canada have an average of 2.3 optometrists per practice
+ An average optometric practice handles about 2,800 patient consultations per year
+ The average optometrist spends 41 hours per week in practice, with 35 hours devoted to patients and the remaining hours devoted to practice management
According to Statistics Canada, in 2017, there were 630 licensed Doctors of Optometry in Alberta, of which, 323 are considered employers that own a practice.
Once you graduate from a School of Optometry, you can either:
+ Work as an associate in an existing practice before buying into the practice as a partner
+ Buy an existing optometric practice from another optometrist
+ Start a new optometry practice on your own or with partners
Established optometrists in Alberta typically work in private practice and own or are partners in their practice. You can also own or work in more than one location, known as a “satellite” office.
To start a new optometry practice, the start-up costs include:
+ Licensing and registration costs
+ Capital costs for equipment and leasehold improvements
+ Inventory costs for lenses, frames, contact lenses and lens solutions
To pay for these start-up costs, most optometrists visit their financial institution and apply for a bank loan. Your financial institution will ask you to provide a business plan for your optometry practice that summarizes how you’ll start your business, what services you’ll provide, how you’ll attract new patients, as well as your financial projections for up to five years.
Optometrists are paid when they provide a service. The most common services provided by optometrists in Alberta include eye exams and associated treatments, as well as selling eyeglasses with prescription lenses, eyeglass frames, contact lenses and related accessories. Your earnings are determined by several factors, such as coverage under provincial medical programs, fee schedules, hours worked, practice location, services provided and total patient population.
But before any of that, you have to become registered in Alberta and licensed with the Alberta College of Optometrists.
Registration and Licensure for Optometrists in Edmonton, Alberta
In order to practice optometry in Alberta, it’s mandatory to be a Regulated Member of the Alberta College of Optometrists (ACO). The ACO is the regulatory and licensing body for the profession of optometry in Alberta. They’re also responsible for the establishment, maintenance and enforcement of Standards of Practice, competency skills and the ACO Code of Ethics to ensure that optometrists practice their profession in the best interests of the public.
The ACO recognizes six primary categories of applicants:
If you’re not sure of your application category, you can contact the ACO office at:
Regardless of your application category, you have to:
+ Complete the Preliminary Registration Form for your appropriate category
+ Submit all required documentation to the ACO office
+ Submit the registration fee
+ Complete the statutory declaration
+ Complete and submit the ACO Practice Permit Application
Once all of these forms are received at the ACO office and all fees are paid, an official notification will be sent to the Alberta Health Care Practitioner Registry and the Alberta College of Pharmacists informing them of your status. You have to complete all of these steps and receive your notification before you can practice as a Doctor of Optometry in Alberta.
Please submit these documents to:
The Alberta College of Optometrists
#102, 8407 Argyll Road NW
Edmonton, Alberta T6C 4B2
If you need any additional information, please contact:
Dr. Gordon Hensel
Registrar and CEO
780 466 5999
ACO General Administrative Office
Next, we’ll cover the registration and licensing procedures for all six primary categories of applicants.
Want to keep reading?
Please enter your name and email address below to access the rest of this guide!
Sarkis Hakopdjanian is an experienced business advisor with extensive education and training from Canada’s leading academic and corporate institutions in business planning, sales and marketing, as well as practice management.