Ophthalmic Assistant: Career Information & Requirements

Learn what an ophthalmic assistant does. See what kind of education and training you'll need to get a job. Discover the career prospects and earning potential to decide if this job is right for you.

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Career Definition for an Ophthalmic Assistant

Ophthalmic assistants work with ophthalmologists to provide eye and vision care to patients. Ophthalmic assistants' duties include performing vision tests; checking central and peripheral vision; conducting color vision tests; measuring intraocular pressure; determining pupil size; examining the lens, cornea, and anterior chamber of the eye; gathering medical histories; and recording treatment. Ophthalmic assistants most frequently work in an ophthalmologist's office, though they may also work in vision care clinics, eye care facilities, and hospitals.

Education High school diploma required, certificate or associate degree recommended
Job Skills Teamwork, communication, knowledge of medical terms, math and treatment guidelines
Median Salary (2015)* $35,350 for ophthalmic medical technicians
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 25% for ophthalmic medical technicians

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements

Depending on the state, the place of employment, and the duties of the role, the credentials required to become an ophthalmic assistant will vary. You'll need at least a high school diploma, and you'll also likely need to complete a 1-year certificate program or 2-year associate's degree program to become an ophthalmic assistant. Coursework to help you prepare for a career in ophthalmology includes anatomy and medical terminology, patient services, infection control procedures, and physiology of the eye.

Skills Required

Ophthalmic assistants work as part of a team of medical caregivers and should have strong interpersonal and communications skills. A thorough understanding of medical terminology, strong math skills, and an understanding of patient treatment guidelines will help you to succeed as an ophthalmic assistant.

Economic and Career Outlook

The employment outlook for ophthalmic assistants is good; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is projecting that employment in this field will grow 25% from 2014-2024. In May 2015, the BLS reported that ophthalmic medical technicians made median annual earnings of $35,350.

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Alternate Career Options

Here are a few other choices for careers in health care support:

Dental Assistant

A dental assistant prepares dental tools and supplies for use by dentists. They also prep patients for dental exams and provide dentists with chairside support. Dental assistants may also book appointments. In some states, dental assistants are authorized to perform some dental care tasks, like applying fluoride or topical anesthetic.

Some states regulate the employment of dental assistants by education and testing; 1-year certificate and diploma programs are available. Some states also require professional certification, typically the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) credential, which also requires an exam. Dental assistants who don't complete an education program participate in on-the-job training. The BLS expects the number of jobs for dental assistants to increase 18% from 2014-2024, and reports that dental assistants earned median salaries of $35,980 in 2015.

Pharmacy Technician

A pharmacy technician fills prescriptions under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist. Inventory, record keeping, and sales transactions may also be the responsibility of a pharmacy technician, depending on where they work. A job as a pharmacy technician is attainable with a high school diploma and on-the-job training or a postsecondary pharmacy technology program. Pharmacy technicians can earn professional certification, which is required in some states; states may have other regulations regarding the employment of pharmacy technicians, too. According to the BLS, pharmacy technician jobs are expected to increase 9% from 2014-2024. The median salary among pharmacy technicians was $30,410 in 2015, per the BLS.

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