Optometric Technician: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become an optometric technician. Learn about education requirements, job duties, median wages and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Optician degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Optometric Technician?

Optometric technicians perform many essential functions in an optometrist's office. They prepare the equipment used to test patients. They also prepare patients for tests, may measure their eyes, and may perform some tests themselves. These tests include depth perception, color perception and the patient's ability to see near and far. After procedures they clean the equipment that's been used. Optometric technicians also schedule appointments, give patients prescriptions from the optometrist, and may provide patients with information about how to care for their lenses or glasses. They also clean glasses and may be involved in the process of having glasses or lenses made for patients.

Degree Required Postsecondary certificate
Training Required On-the-job training may be offered in lieu of education
Key Responsibilities Prepare examination area and equipment; assist optometrist with patient exam and record keeping; teach patient eye exercises and therapy; place orders for corrective lenses and dispense to patient
Certification/Licensure Certification or licensure may be required in some states and preferred by some employers
Job Growth (2014-2024) 23% (for all medical assistants)*
Median Salary (2016) $29,441*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

What Does an Optometric Technician Do?

An optometric technician works in the office of an optometrist or ophthalmologist. In this position, you might aid the physician in examinations and treatments by providing instruments and supplies. You would interview patients to record their medical information, vital signs, weight and height. You may also test a patient's blood pressure, eye pressure, pupils, color vision, corneal curvature and peripheral vision. You would also do the office's administrative work, such as scheduling appointments, maintaining records and accounting.

As an optometric technician, you may also be responsible for helping the optometrist find the right size for a patient's contact lenses. You would then have the responsibility of ordering and adjusting contact lenses and eyeglasses. You might find work at an office, laboratory, clinic or government agency. You might also find positions available in optical instrument companies.

What Should I Study?

Postsecondary education is not necessarily required to work as an optometric technician, and you might just gain on-the-job training. However, you could also prepare for the career by entering a yearlong optometric technician program to learn how to provide eye care. In such a program, you would learn about the anatomy and physiology of the eye, medical terminology, optical properties of light, patient pre-testing skills, visual training and practice management. An optometric technician program would provide you with opportunities to use your skills in an optometric practice. Associate's degree programs are also available to prepare you for a career as an optometric technician and can be completed in two years.

How Do I Become Certified?

The American Optometric Association (AOA) offers the credential of Certified Paraoptometric Technician. To be eligible for the examination, you must meet the AOA's educational requirements or hold the credential of Certified Paraoptometric Assistant for six months. The certification examination has a written portion made up of multiple-choice questions regarding such subjects as anatomy and physiology, practice management and optometric procedures. The second part would require you to demonstrate your practical skills as an optometric technician.

What Might I Earn?

PayScale.com reported that in October 2016 optometric technicians from the 10th-90th percentile range earned $20,215 to $34,553 a year. The median was $29,441.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Nursing assistants, occupational therapy assistants and dental assistants all have similarities to optometric technicians. Nursing assistants and dental assistants need postsecondary training, but like optometric technicians they do not necessarily need an associate's degree. They may assist a doctor or dentist with procedures, and may assist with medical tests on patients. They also need to maintain clean working environments and may clean equipment after it's been used. The work of an occupational therapy assistant is also similar to the work of an optometric technician. Occupational therapy assistants work with patients and help them perform exercises that have been designed by the occupational therapist to help with the patient's condition. The key differences between occupational therapy assistants and optometric technicians is that they do need an associate's degree, and they focus on treatment rather than testing.

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