Ophthalmic and Optometric Support Professions

Ophthalmic and optometric support professionals provide assistance to eye doctors and their patients. Learn about job duties, career prospects and education requirements to help you decide if this work is for you.

Are Ophthalmic and Optometric Support Professions for Me?

Career Information

Ophthalmic and optometric support professionals are medical assistants specializing in eye care who work under ophthalmologists or optometrists. As an ophthalmic assistant, technician or technologist, you'd perform administrative duties in addition to giving basic eye tests and treatments. You might also keep records and advise patients how to use and maintain contact lenses. Employers could be ophthalmologists, optometrists, hospitals and commercial eye care shops.

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted that job growth for medical assistants, including eye care support professionals like ophthalmic medical assistants and optometric assistants, will rise 29% during the 2012-2022 decade (www.bls.gov). According to PayScale.com, as of April 2014, most optometric assistants took home $18,171-$33,173 per year while ophthalmic technicians earned $23,711-$45,764 per year, and certified ophthalmic medical technologists took home $33,179-$66,119.

How Can I Become an Ophthalmic and Optometric Support Professional?

Education

Formal training to become a medical assistant in eye care isn't always required for employment; some aspiring eye care support professionals get on-the-job instruction from their employers, who typically require a high school diploma or GED. Most ophthalmic and optometric support professionals, however, go to school to study ophthalmic and optometric technology and assisting. There are certificate, associate's degree and bachelor's degree programs available through technical schools, community colleges and universities.

Training Programs

These accredited programs last from 3-6 months for certificate programs or 2-4 years for degree programs and often include courses in eye diseases and anatomy, contact lenses, ophthalmic specialty testing, office procedures, patient relations and ophthalmic dispensing. In some programs, you'll gain clinical experience working directly with patients and eye doctors. There are also distance learning programs and independent study programs available through the Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology (JCAHPO) or the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).

Certification

You may also qualify to earn professional optometric technician certification from the American Optometric Association (AOA) or JCAHPO. Certification as an ophthalmic assistant is voluntary, but you could boost your chances for advancement, gain more job opportunities or earn better pay by being certified.

Required Skills

To work as an ophthalmic technician, assistant or technologist, you need strong communication skills for easing patient anxiety and to clearly explain procedures and instructions from eye doctors. Computer skills are also a must, as is good hand-eye coordination.

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