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Entry-level Medical Job: What Does it Take to be an Ophthalmic Technician?

ophthalmic Technician

There are many entry-level medical jobs that young adults can use to jump start their medical careers. Every specialty that you can think of from cardiovascular to sonography has techs on hand to take on a variety of tasks which can be very useful in helping out the patient in their time of need. One of the very best early roles that a tech can take on is the role of an Ophthalmic Technician.

What is an Ophthalmic Technician?

eye doctor eyetest

It may be quite a mouthful to say, but in simpler terms an ophthalmic technician is an assistant to an eye doctor, also known as an ophthalmologist. An Ophthalmic Technician will work alongside an eye doctor to provide optimal patient care by performing various eye-related tasks including:

Ophthalmic  Technician Eye Related Task

  • Taking the patient’s medical history information
  • Instructing the patient about their medication, and upcoming tests or procedures
  • Performing vision and diagnostic tests
  • Assisting with all types of patient procedures
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Supervising and training other ophthalmic personnel
  • Performing various office management duties

Unlike dispensing opticians who can fit glasses or contact lenses, an ophthalmic technician will work along with an ophthalmologist and help with patient eye exams and other tests. They are the physician extenders that allow the eye doctor to see more patients all throughout the day.

This position has long-term advancement benefits and great potential for all those how want to move up the ladder. Ophthalmic technicians can go on to receive higher compensation by completing additional training courses.

What Does it Really Take to Be a Great Ophthalmic Tech?

woman viewing on a eye machine

Beginning a career as an OT can be very exciting and rewarding. But it can also be very stressful especially when you first get started. Working as an ophthalmic technician, you have a lot to learn in a short amount of time. And that can be very overwhelming for some individual. If you love the idea of helping others and starting a career in ophthalmology quickly and efficiently, this may be the right career for you. But do you really have what it takes to be an Ophthalmic Technician?

Here are a few of the necessary skills that all ophthalmic techs need in order to be successful on the job.

  • Excellent problem solving skills
  • Medical science (with emphasis on the eye)
  • People and Interpersonal Skills
  • Basic computer processing knowledge
  • The ability and the desire to learn new things

The Path to Becoming a Successful Ophthalmic Tech

There are several pathways to becoming a good ophthalmic technician. You will need a high school diploma or a GED to get started. And even if you live in a state that doesn’t require you to have a certification, most employers will look for a good mix of education, training and certifications when they are hiring a new OT. Therefore, you should try to become certified regardless of if it is a state requirement or not just for your own benefit.

Here are a few ways that you can gain more experience and become an ophthalmic technician or a certified ophthalmic tech. 

Start as a COA (Certified Ophthalmic Assistant

Complete a COA-OMP Accredited Program

Receive On-the-Job Training

What Are the Work Conditions Like for Ophthalmic Technicians?

Ophthalmic technicians work between 35 to 40 hours a week inside of a clean and well-lit setting. They usually do not work on evenings and weekends and have a secure schedule that they can rely on. However there also may be some offices that are open late in the evening and on the weekends to better serve their customers. If that is the case, then you may have to work on a different schedule than the usual 9 to 5, Monday through Friday schedule that so many of us are used to.

Since they are always in constant contact with their patients, an ophthalmic tech should have a great personality and be a good people person. They will need to have the manual dexterity to operate various types of equipment and spend most of their day on their feet.

The Salary Range and Job Outlook for Ophthalmic Technicians

The salary range for ophthalmic technicians can vary greatly based on their level of training, their experience and the level of certification they received. It may also be different based on their location. The average starting salary for a tech is $42,500 per year while the average salary overall for ophthalmic techs is at $52,500. Technicians with plenty of experience and higher credentials could end up with a salary of $60,000 per year.

What Are the Academic Requirements to Become an Ophthalmic Tech?

There are two ways that you can enter into the field. By on-the-job training and independent study, or by enrolling in an accredited training program.

On-the-job Training and Independent Study

doctor testing a patient

Most ophthalmic practices will have their own training and procedures that they teach to their entry-level techs who have little to no experience working in this field. If you are unable to enroll in a training program, or you want to get started with your career as soon as possible you should apply for a job at an ophthalmologist office that offers on-the-job training.

Accredited Training Program

If you are interested in taking an accrediting training program instead so that you will have the option to work for a variety of different eye doctor offices or other similar facilities, there are several of these programs available both online and at local institutions such as technical schools and community colleges.

The Coursework for an Ophthalmic Technician Program

If you choose to enroll in an ophthalmic technician training program, you will need to have your high school diploma or equivalent to get started. You will also need to complete the CAAHEP accredited OT program. Assistants will receive a 1-year certificate or a diploma while technicians will receive a 2-year associate degree.

The coursework for this type of program consists of:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Medical terminology
  • Medical laws and ethics
  • Psychology
  • Ocular anatomy and physiology
  • Ophthalmic optics
  • Microbiology
  • Ophthalmic pharmacology and toxicology
  • Ocular motility
  • Diseases of the eye

 

Along with these courses, students will also receive a lot of hands-on experience.

Earning an Ophthalmic Technician and Technologist Certification

The regulations for receiving a certification int his area will vary from one state to another. But there are many employers who consider this a requirement even if it is not required by the state. The Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology or JCAHPO, offers national certification and testing for all ophthalmic techs on three different levels along with a sub-specialty certification. They are:

  • Certified Ophthalmic Assistant (COA) Entry Level
  • Certified Ophthalmic Technician (COT) Intermediate Level
  • Certified Ophthalmic Medical Technologist (COMT) Advanced Level

The sub-specialty of ophthalmic surgical assistants requires a certification in one of these three core levels.

Do You Have What It Takes to Become an Ophthalmic Technician?

a girl taking an eye test

A career as an Ophthalmic Technician has many benefits. You can either take on-the-job training or enroll in an accredited program that will help you reach your career goals. This is an excellent entry-level opportunity for young adults or anyone who is ready to make a career change. The pay is very well for a job that requires very little training and it also has a very positive outlook for the years to come.  

Those who choose to become an ophthalmic tech will need to have good communication skills and shouldn’t have any problem working on their feet for the majority of the day. These technicians often work in ophthalmologist offices and help patients prepare for procedures as well as taken on general office management tasks.

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