What Does It Take To Be An Ophthalmic Technician?
A career as an Ophthalmic Technician is an exciting one for people who are interested in healthcare, enjoy working with patients, and want to advance their career. The best news is that you don't have to invest a ton of money and time into a traditional medical school program. Certification programs help you to get all the training you need, or you can even receive free training on-the-job. The demand for Ophthalmic Technicians is very high, so it's very possible to get started in this field quickly.
Here are some necessary skills needed to become an Ophthalmic Tech, how to do it, and associations to help you do so:
What Skills Are Necessary?
Ophthalmic Technicians are going to be working with people and ophthalmic equipment for the majority of the day, so it is important to exhibit the following skill sets:
- Problem Solving Skills
- Medical Science (specifically of the eye)
- People/Interpersonal Skills
- Basic Computer Processing Knowledge
- Ability/Desire to Learn
Pathways To Become An Ophthalmic Technician
There are several different pathways to becoming an Ophthalmic Technician. A high school diploma or GED is required, but many employers look for a mix of education, training, and certifications as well. Below are some of the ways that you can get experience and become an Ophthalmic Technician or Certified Ophthalmic Technician:
- Start as a Certified Ophthalmic Assistant (COA) - Many Ophthalmic Technicians enter the field by becoming a Certified Ophthalmic Assistant. To qualify for certification, you must compete an accredited training program or competed an independent study course. After becoming a COA and completing the requisite number of hours on the job, you can qualify to earn the intermediate level certification and become a Certified Ophthalmic Technician.
- Complete a CoA-OMP accredited OT Program - The Commission on Accreditation of Ophthalmic Medical Programs has a list of schools and programs where you can obtain a Bachelor’s degree, Associates degree, or complete a yearlong training program in relevant coursework and training. Once completing your training, you can start applying for Technician positions or go ahead and take the certification test to become a Certified Ophthalmic Technician.
- Receive On-the-Job Training - Because no certification is necessary by law to work as an Ophthalmic Assistant or Technician, you can receive on-the-job training to learn the necessary skills. You may get lucky, but it’s unlikely that an employer will hire you with no background in the field because they don’t have the time or resources to train you. You can, however, get your foot in the door and begin by working at the front desk or similar office position first. Once you've proven yourself as a reliable employee and shown interest in advancing and learning more, your employer may be more likely to invest the time in beginning to train you in the basics of ophthalmic assisting.
Associations and Certifications
There are several associations for Ophthalmic Techs to connect with others in the industry and have access to valuable resources and certifications. While it isn’t always required, many employers also prefer certifications from the Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology (JCAHPO). JCAHPO offers 3 different levels of certification:
- Certified Ophthalmic Assistant (COA) – Entry Level
- Certified Ophthalmic Technician (COT) – Intermediate Level
- Certified Ophthalmic Medical Technologist (COMT) – Advanced Level
Obtaining a certification is a great way to increase your hiring potential as an Ophthalmic Tech. You can also work your way up to different levels and increase your pay and responsibilities. Joining the association gives you access to these resources and a community to support you.
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