How Can I Become a Certified Ophthalmic Photographer?

Explore the career requirements for ophthalmic photographers. Get the facts about education requirements, certification, job outlook and salary to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Photography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Certified Ophthalmic Photographer?

An ophthalmic photographer takes pictures of a patient's eyes. They may photograph the corneas or retinas or other parts of the eye. The purpose of these photographs is to diagnose a patient's condition, if necessary. They may also take images that are used to document a disease, or that may be used for surgery or other treatments. The images they take may be two- or three-dimensional. In addition to knowing how to operate the camera equipment and interact effectively with patients, ophthalmic photographers need to keep their equipment clean and maintain the equipment so that it's operating properly.

Education Required High school diploma, associate's degree
Education Field of Study Ophthalmic technology
Key Responsibilities Taking photographs of patients' eyes
Job Growth (2014-2024) 14% (for ophthalmic medical technicians)*
Average Salary (2015) $36,690 (for ophthalmic medical technicians)**

Source: *O*NET Online, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Would I Do As a Certified Ophthalmic Photographer?

Ophthalmic photographers use various types of imaging techniques to produce photographs of patients' eyes. Ophthalmologists then use these images to analyze the health of the eyes and to diagnose diseases of the eyes. As an ophthalmic photographer, you'd work as part of an ophthalmologist's team. You'd perform specialized techniques such as fluorescein angiography, which uses the retinal blood's oxygen levels to create an image, and fundus photography, which uses a low power microscope to photograph the retina.

What Education Do I Need?

Although most U.S. colleges generally don't offer educational programs in ophthalmic photography, many offer certificate programs and associate's degree programs in ophthalmic technology, which could prepare you for a career as an ophthalmic photographer. The Commission on Accreditation for Ophthalmic Medical Programs (www.coa-opm.org) lists educational programs in the U.S. by state and type. Most programs prepare students for careers as technicians, clinical assistants and medical technologists; however, many of these programs include classes in ophthalmic photography that could prepare you for certification.

How Do I Become Certified?

You don't need to obtain any specific certification to work as an ophthalmic photographer, but training programs can prepare you to take examinations offered by the Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology (www.jcahpo.org), which can lead to certification as a Certified Ophthalmic Assistant (COA), Certified Ophthalmic Technician (COT) and Certified Ophthalmic Medical Technologist (COMT).

For more specialized certifications, the Ophthalmic Photographers' Society (OPS) offers two certifications: the Certified Retinal Angiographer (CRA) and the Optical Coherence Tomographer-Certified (OCT-C) designations (www.opsweb.org). Eligibility requirements for CRA certification include two years of educational and work experience, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification and a professional portfolio. To take the OCT-C examination, you'll need a professional portfolio demonstrating at least one year of work experience in optical coherence tomography.

What Is the Job Outlook?

According to the OPS, many technicians perform photographers' duties and many photographers perform technicians' duties; as a result, you could receive cross training as you gather work experience. The OPS also notes that ophthalmic photography is a relatively new field and is growing and evolving at a rapid pace. Continuing education can boost your chances of long-term success in this career field. According to O*NET Online, the projected job growth of an ophthalmic medical technician for 2014-2024 is 14%. In May of 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the average salary of an ophthalmic medical technician as $36,690.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Dental laboratory technicians and diagnostic medical sonographers are professionals who share some similarities with ophthalmic photographers. Dental laboratory technicians do not necessarily need any postsecondary training. They create molds and impressions of a patient's teeth. These molds or impressions are used to construct bridges, dentures, crowns or any other appliance that a patient might need. This is similar to the work of an ophthalmic photographer because they work with a three-dimensional construct of the patient's teeth to prepare an apparatus that is necessary for the patient. Diagnostic medical sonographers need a certificate or associate's degree to work in their field. They create images of body tissue or organs. This is similar to the work an ophthalmic photographer does because both of these professionals create images that are used for diagnostic purposes.

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