Certified Ophthalmic Assistant Career and Certification

As this generation ages, more and more of the population will need regular medical care for their eyes. Ophthalmic assistants are part of the team that helps patients maintain eye health. Find out what you'd learn in a training program, and review the requirements for voluntary certification. Get more info about job duties and employment options in this field. Schools offering Optician degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What You Need to Know

As an ophthalmic assistant, you will help eye care physicians, or ophthalmologists, diagnose and treat patients. Certification for this position is not required, but is typically preferred by employers. Training programs are available through technical schools or through independent institutes focusing on ophthalmology. Certification as an ophthalmic assistant is the first step to a continuing career in ophthalmology.

Training Accredited programs are offered by the International Council of Accreditation for Allied Ophthalmic Education Programs
Certification Voluntary certification as a Certified Ophthalmic Assistant through the Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology (JCAHPO) may increase job opportunities
Career Outlook 19% job growth for ophthalmic medical technicians (2016-2026; much faster than average)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will I Do As a Certified Ophthalmic Assistant?

Some of the duties that you will perform include:

  • Administering medications
  • Maintaining surgical instruments
  • Taking medical histories
  • Advising the patients regarding home eye care
  • Using special equipment to test for healthy eye function

Why Should I Become Certified?

While the law does not require you to become certified to work as an ophthalmic assistant, employers may prefer to hire certified candidates over non-certified applicants. Certification from a professional organization indicates that you have received the training necessary to complete the duties and responsibilities expected as an ophthalmic assistant.

What Courses Will I Take?

Your first step is to complete a training or certificate program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Ophthalmic Medical Programs. They should include courses in medical terminology, pharmacology and the anatomy of the eye, as well as courses that provide instruction on using specialized equipment. Most likely, you will find an internship or practicum component to your coursework, providing hands-on experience dealing with patients. Some programs require that you have at least one year of experience prior to applying to the program. The courses that you take should prepare you to take the Certified Ophthalmic Assistant (COA) exam. You have up to a year after completion of the program to take the exam.

What Career Opportunities Become Available Once I Am Certified?

A certified ophthalmic assistant is the entry-level position into a career in ophthalmology. As a COA, you will also have to maintain a certain number of continuing education units, ensuring that you stay current on changes in your field. Your knowledge of current trends, combined with your education and experience, will prepare you to take the next step and become a certified ophthalmic technician. Eventually, you will have the opportunity to become a certified ophthalmic medical technologist. Each certification builds on the skills of the previous position.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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  • The George Washington University

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  • Southern New Hampshire University

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