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Ophthalmic Assistant Education Requirements and Career Info

Ophthalmic assistants test and measure patients' eyes under the supervision of ophthalmologists. Assistants also perform various clerical duties and may prepare testing tools and equipment for ophthalmologists. These professionals often complete ophthalmic certificate or degree programs prior to employment. Read further for the education requirements and career info of ophthalmic assistants.

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Ophthalmic Assistant Education Requirements

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that medical assistants, including ophthalmic assistants, often learn their duties on-site from more experienced staff members; however, many employers prefer applicants who have completed accredited training programs (www.bls.gov). Students may choose to complete ophthalmic technician training or ophthalmic assistant programs at the diploma, certificate or associates-degree levels.

Ophthalmic coursework includes ocular anatomy and physiology, diagnostic testing, contact lenses, ophthalmic procedures and ocular surgery assistance. Many programs also teach students about psychology, healthcare law and medical office management techniques. These programs require students to complete supervised, clinical hours in which they practice ophthalmic techniques and procedures on real patients.


According to the BLS, medical assistants, including ophthalmic assistants, are not required to obtain certification; however, workers can voluntarily pursue certification as a means to improve their chances of finding employment. Nationally recognized certifying boards, such as the Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology (JCAHPO), provide certification programs for ophthalmology workers.

The JCAHPO offers three levels of certification for ophthalmology workers (www.jcahpo.org). Entry-level workers often start out by obtaining the Certified Ophthalmic Assistant (COA) credential. To meet eligibility requirements to take the COA exam, applicants must either complete approved ophthalmology coursework or accrue valid work experience. After passing the certification exam, workers must keep their credential active by participating in continued education coursework.

Ophthalmic Assistant Career Info

Working with licensed ophthalmologists, ophthalmic assistants provide clinical and clerical support in the diagnosis and treatment of eye dysfunctions. Many assistants conduct eye tests on patients, especially tests that measure the functionality of eye muscles. Assistants record the results from all tests and submit notes to ophthalmologists. Ophthalmic assistants also teach patients how to administer specialized, eye-care medications.

On the clerical side, ophthalmic assistants often set up appointments for patients. Assistants also input patient medical information. Some assistants correspond with vendors, such as contact lens distributors. During doctor exams with patients, ophthalmic assistants may sit in during the examination to transcribe the doctor's notes.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The BLS predicted that open positions for medical assistants, which include ophthalmic assistants, would increase by 29% in the decade of 2012-2022. Available jobs in the medical assistance industry are expected to grow quickly due to a steadily growing population requiring more medical care. According to May 2013 reports from the BLS, medical assistants, including ophthalmic assistants, made an average salary of $30,780 per year.

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  • School locations:
    • Columbia (D.C.) (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Georgetown University include:
      • Graduate: First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Coursework
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Medical and Health Professions
      • Medical Administrative Services
      • Medical Diagnostic and Treatment Professions
      • Medical Residency Programs
      • Nursing Professions
      • Optometric and Ophthalmic Services
        • Ophthalmic Technician
      • Public Health and Safety
  • School locations:
    • California (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Stanford University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Medical and Health Professions
      • Medical Administrative Services
      • Medical Informatics and Illustration
      • Medical Residency Programs

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics