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How to Become a Certified Ophthalmic Photographer

Learn how to become a certified ophthalmic photographer. Research the education requirements, certification information and experience required for starting a career in ophthalmic photography.

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Do I Want to Be a Certified Ophthalmic Photographer?

A certified ophthalmic photographer uses highly specialized imaging equipment to take detailed pictures of the eye and its inner structures. These images allow doctors to diagnose, monitor or treat disorders or diseases of the eye.

Like many other ophthalmic technicians, ophthalmic photographers spend at least part of their work day in a sterile, climate-controlled laboratory or hospital environment, generally during regular office hours, taking and developing photographs. The increase in the number of job opportunities for ophthalmic technicians is expected to be slightly above the national average, at about 12% from 2012 to 2022; however, the median annual wages for these and other types of specialized medical technicians was slightly below average as of May 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Job Requirements

There are several paths to becoming a certified ophthalmic photographer, but one common way is to complete an ophthalmic technician associate's degree program and pass the certified ophthalmic technician (COT) certification exam. The following table contains the most common requirements for becoming a certified ophthalmic photographer, according to online job postings from employers in January 2013:

Common Requirements
Degree Level High school diploma or equivalent accepted; associate's or bachelor's degree preferred
Degree Field Ophthalmic technology or photography
Experience 0 to 3 years experience in photography or retinal work
Certification COT recommended
Key Skills Must be able to work with a team and independently, strong customer service skills
Technical Skills Knowledge of ICG angiography, fluorescein angiography, optical coherence tomography, slit-lamp and external photography

Step 1: Earn an Associate's Degree

An accredited ophthalmic technician associate's degree program can provide the education requirements needed for COT certification. Coursework may include anatomy, physiology, optics, ophthalmic pharmacology, eye diseases, and instrument maintenance. Some schools offer hands-on experience through clinical rotations and lab work. Graduates of an ophthalmic technology associate's degree program are eligible to take the COT exam.

Step 2: Get Certified

The Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology (JCAHPO) offers a Certified Ophthalmic Technician certification program that proves a technician's competency in a variety of tasks in the eyecare field. Technicians must pass a written multiple-choice exam as well as a skill evaluation. Recertification is necessary every 3 years, and requirements include a fee as well as 27 approved continuing education credits or completion of an exam.

The Ophthalmic Photographers' Society also administers the Certified Retinal Angiographer (CRA) and Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT-C) Imaging programs; some senior ophthalmic photographer positions prefer applicants with a CRA credential. In order to qualify for either credential's written exam, applicants need to submit work samples up to certain standards.

Step 3: Gain Work Experience

Many ophthalmic photographer positions require candidates to be COT-certified and have up to 3 years of experience in the field. Job duties may include assisting ophthalmology physicians and nurses, performing photography and diagnostic tests, managing photography equipment and providing patient services. Responsibilities vary depending on the employer and may be highly specialized.

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