How to Become an Ophthalmic Technician or Ophthalmic Technologist

Research ophthalmic technician and ophthalmic technologist training and careers.

The Basics

What you'll do: In an ophthalmic technician job, you'll work right along side an ophthalmologist as they help patients with eye disorders, vision measurements for glasses, eye muscle exercises and the prevention of blindness. You'll also obtain medical histories from patients, administer diagnostic tests, provide contact lens instruction, administer eye medicine and maintain optical instruments.

Where you'll work: Ophthalmic technicians and ophthalmic technologists work in ophthalmologists' offices.

Degree you'll need: Associate's degree plus 1-year certificate or diploma

Annual median salary: $34,240*

Ophthalmic Technologist Job Description

As an ophthalmic technologist, you perform all duties performed by technicians, but you have more training and expanded responsibilities. Your additional responsibilities may include the following:

  • Assisting the ophthalmologist in surgery
     
  • Performing ophthalmic clinical photography and fluorescence angiography, as well as electrophysiological and microbiological procedures
     
  • Supervising other ophthalmic staff

Ophthalmic Technician and Technologist Education

In addition to having your GED or high school diploma, you need to complete a CAAHEP-accredited OT program, usually a 1-year certificate or diploma for assistants and technicians or a 2-year associate degree for technologists.

Coursework generally includes the following:

  • 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

You'll also gain plenty of hands-on clinical experience.

Ophthalmic Technician and Technologist Certification

Certification regulations vary from state-to-state, however many employers consider it a requirement for employment. The Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology (JCAHPO) offers national certification and testing for OTs on three different levels, plus subspecialty certification:

  • Certified Ophthalmic Assistant (COA) – entry level
  • Certified Ophthalmic Technician (COT) – intermediate level
  • Certified Ophthalmic Medical Technologist (COMT) – advanced level

The subspecialty of ophthalmic surgical assisting requires certification in one of the three core levels.

Sources:  U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook; Dental and Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians

*The salary information listed is based on a national average, unless noted. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.