Optical Assistant: Job Description & Career Info

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an optical assistant. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and certification to find out if this is the career for you.

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Essential Information

An optical assistant, or optometric assistant, is a person who aids an optometrist in both clinical and administrative duties. Individuals who desire to work in medical settings and have strong customer service skills may enjoy this career.

Required Education High school diploma
Other Requirements Optional certification
Projected Job Growth* 23% between 2012 and 2022 (opticians, dispensing)
Average Salary (2013)* $35,710 (opticians, dispensing)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description for an Optical Assistant

Optical assistants are medical assistants who may work in an optometrist's private practice, a vision care clinic or another type of facility that provides eye care. Optical assistants are not to be confused with ophthalmic medical assistants, who help ophthalmologists (medical eye doctors). Common duties of optical assistants include greeting patients, answering phones, handling and responding to correspondence, maintaining patient records, scheduling appointments, assisting with vision tests and teaching patients how to use and care for contact lenses.

Optical Assistant Job Information

Educational Information for Optical Assistants

Although there are no formal education requirements to become an optical assistant, most assistants have at least completed high school. Additional education, such as completion of an optical assisting program at a vocational school, technical school or community college, can provide greater job opportunities. Optical assisting programs can usually be completed in less than a year. Common courses in such programs may include anatomy and physiology of the eye, optical equipment and CPR.

Certification Information for Optical Assistants

The American Optometric Association (AOA) offers two certification options for optical assistants who want to become more competitive in their field (www.aoa.org). Optical assistants who possess a high school diploma or its equivalent and have worked for at least six months in the field can earn the Certified Paraoptometric (CPO) designation by passing the CPO written test.

The next certification level, or the Certified Paraoptometric Assistant (CPOA) designation, may be earned by passing the CPOA written exam. Individuals eligible to take the CPOA written exam include holders of the CPO designation with an additional six months of work experience, certain optometric assistants with at least five years of work experience and students who have completed or have almost completed an approved optometric assisting program.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information for Optical Assistants

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for dispensing opticians, a related position to optical assistants, were expected to increase much-faster-than-average at 23% from 2012-2022. The average annual salary of dispensing opticians was $35,710 as of May 2013, per BLS reports.

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