What is an Ophthalmic Technician?
If you’ve heard about ophthalmic technicians and think it sounds like an exciting career choice, you’re probably hoping to find out more about the job. As essential health professionals, ophthalmic medical technicians work with ophthalmologists, performing clinical tasks related to eye care. These responsibilities can include assisting with patients’ medical and surgical procedures, taking patient histories, performing eye exams and diagnostic vision tests and instructing patients on how to properly use their medications. Ophthalmic technicians may also perform clerical duties such as scheduling appointments and supervising other staff members.
Those who have the ability to succeed in this profession are usually friendly, outgoing and genuinely love helping others. Customer service is a must for ophthalmic technicians, and good listening and communication skills are essential. You will also need an aptitude for problem-solving and an eye for detail.
Related careers include ophthalmic technologists and ophthalmic assistants, both of whom may work closely with technicians in the same ophthalmology practice.
Education Requirements for Ophthalmic Technicians
Ophthalmologists have the critical job of retaining and restoring patients’ sight, and assisting them in their work is an enormous responsibility. As such, you will need to be well-trained and knowledgeable in order to perform the job responsibly. Acquiring the proper education will help you become the ophthalmic technician an ophthalmologist needs in their practice.
Whether you choose to train on the job or attend a training course, a high school diploma or equivalent is a required prerequisite. Like many allied health careers, training at a post-secondary level is available at specific trade schools and community colleges. Many technician training programs are offered at an associate degree level.
Finding an Ophthalmic Technician Training Program
If you plan to become an ophthalmic technician, you will need to search for an appropriate training program. Ophthalmic technician training, while not rare, is also not available everywhere. As such, you may possibly have to travel to find a program that meets your needs. However, if you can’t find a technician program, you may be able to find a program for ophthalmic technology or assisting closer to home.
A few of the available courses for ophthalmic technicians in the United States are as follows:
- Georgetown University, Department of Ophthalmology in Washington, DC, offers an ophthalmic technician training program.
- Volunteer State Community College in Gallatin, TN, offers an Ophthalmic Technician Associate of Applied Science degree.
- Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, NC, offers an Ophthalmic Technician program.
- Florida State College at Jacksonville in Jacksonville, FL, offers an Ophthalmic Technician Associate in Science degree.
- Henry Ford College in Dearborn, MI, offers an Ophthalmic Technician Associate in Applied Science degree.
- Triton College in River Grove, Il, offers an ophthalmic technician program.
- Pima Medical Institute in Denver, CO, offers an ophthalmic medical technician program.
Acquiring Certification as an Ophthalmic Medical Technician
The Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology (JCAHPO) offers certification exams for various ophthalmic professions. These accreditations include:
- Certified Ophthalmic Assistant (COA)
- Certified Ophthalmic Medical Technologist (COMT)
- Certified Ophthalmic Technician (COT)
- Ophthalmic Surgical Assisting (OSA)
- Registered Ophthalmic Ultrasound Biometrist (ROUB)
- Certified Diagnostic Ophthalmic Sonographer (CDOS)
- Corporate Certified Ophthalmic Assistant (CCOA)
- Ophthalmic Scribe Certification (OSC)
Although not required for entry-level work, taking an exam to acquire a certification can be a boon to your resume and open up opportunities for career advancement. Certified ophthalmic technicians are likely to see a significant boost in salary and job responsibilities. With certification, you will be more qualified to perform additional job duties such as various diagnostic tests and procedures. In addition, you will be a better candidate for the management or supervision of other technicians and assistants, when such positions become available.
Ophthalmic Technician Employment Opportunities, Salary Expectations and Career Growth
You may be wondering where you will work once you have become an ophthalmic technician. Many technicians find work in an eye center or vision clinic. You may also work for an ophthalmologist. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that most technicians work in physician and healthcare provider practices.
The career is expected to experience significant growth, according to employment data from Projections Central. In fact, according to their predictions, the profession should grow by 16.5 percent between 2018 and 2028. This percentage corresponds to an additional 8,900 jobs in the field.
The BLS reported a salary range between $25,830 and $57,900 in 2020. In the same year, the average salary for the profession was $40,010. The highest paying industries for the job in 2020 were company management, outpatient care centers and universities.
Technicians on the Job
One of the biggest questions when considering a career is whether you will enjoy the daily tasks of the profession. Technicians are involved in many different facets of a vision center or ophthalmologist’s office. Following are a few of the procedures you will likely be required to do on any given day:
- Discuss the purpose of eye exams with patients
- Record eye test results and histories in patient medical records
- Instill eye drops and medications
- Test for visual acuity, color vision, visual field and other various tests
- Assist with any examination performed in the practice
- Apply and remove eye dressings
- Prepare for and assist the ophthalmologist in minor procedures
- Prepare and maintain patient examination rooms
- Process medication refill requests from patients
- Supervise and train other staff as necessary
As you work your way through your training, you will learn all of these technical skills and so many more. In fact, you will acquire a great deal of knowledge about the eye itself, the procedures related to eye care and all of the mechanisms used to provide care to patients with visual problems.
However, what no list of duties can express is how rewarding it is to be a part of the team that helps a patient regain or improve their vision. If you want your day-to-day employment experience to be anything but mundane, this is the career for you. In truth, it is impossible to overemphasize how many gifts a rewarding and heartwarming career, like this one, will bring into your life.