What is an Ophthalmic Assistant?
Ophthalmic assistants provide vision care under the supervision of a licensed ophthalmologist. They assist with taking patient histories, performing diagnostic tests and procedures, patient scheduling, and exam room preparation.
You could be a successful ophthalmic assistant if:
- You are detail-oriented
- You have good people skills
- You work well on a team
- You have strong communication skills
- You are good at multi-tasking
Students can choose to pursue their training at the diploma, certificate, or associate-degree level. Training can be obtained in a variety of ways:
- Academic Training in an Accredited Program
- Distance Learning Programs
- On-the-Job Training
With additional training and experience, assistants may progress to the level of ophthalmic technician or technologist. Certification is offered through Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology (JCAHPO), and is available at three different levels: assistant (COA), technician (COT), and technologist (COMT). Certification is recommended, but not mandatory in Ohio.
Employment is projected to grow much faster than average, ranking medical assistants among the fastest growing occupations over the 2008–18 decade.www.bls.gov/oco/ocos164.htm
Salary Range- Ophthalmic Medical Assistant
$23,700 and $33,050
The Bureau of Labor Statistics www.bls.gov
Note: The salary for ophthalmic medical assistants is not reported separately by the government. The following range is based on the pay of a medical assistant.
Salary Range- Ophthalmic Technician
$37,400 and $48,073
Professional Organizations Websites
Meet a Professional: Margie
What interested you in becoming an ophthalmic technician?
After 10 years of raising a family, I was ready to further my education and career. I decided to enroll at Lakeland Community College for nursing when a new ophthalmic program was introduced. I found the curriculum intriguing and the work hours suited my family life more than nursing.
What physical and soft skill do you need to succeed?
A person needs to be understanding, caring, and sensitive to their patients’ needs. We work all day with a variety of patients, so it is important that an ophthalmic assistant enjoy this type of work. We do a lot of measuring and testing, so it is necessary to be thorough and very accurate with our results. A desire to keep learning is also essential. There is always something new to learn with changes and advances in the field of ophthalmology.
I love learning more and perfecting my skills. I also get to teach students who come to the Cole Eye Institute for training. Teaching students is both challenging and rewarding. At the end of the day, you get a great feeling from knowing that you provided good quality patient care, and did your best.”
Margie Zalar, Certified Ophthalmic Technician at Cole Eye Institute for 14 years.
What advice would you give to interested high school students?
I would suggest that a high school student enroll in a shadowing program and then look into their local community colleges. Ophthalmic technology requires an understanding of science and math. Those high school courses are important if you are thinking about going into any medical field.
What interested you in working at the Cleveland Clinic?
I was in school when the Cleveland Clinic was opening the Cole Eye Institute. I decided this was the place for me because I could utilize my skills to their fullest as well as further my education. The Cleveland Clinic is ranked as one of the best health care systems in the world.
What excites you about working as an ophthalmic technician?
I really enjoy the variety. I work with patients from different states and sometimes countries. I enjoy learning.
What career options do you have as an ophthalmic technician?
You begin your career as an ophthalmic assistant and through experience, education and testing advance to two more levels of certification. The beginning level would be a certified ophthalmic assistant, then a certified ophthalmic technician, and the last level being a certified ophthalmic medical technologist. Certification is recommended, but not mandatory in Ohio. An individual could also choose a subspecialty, which provides additional career options such as ophthalmic photography or ultrasound.