With a high school diploma it is possible to begin a career as an optical assistant. Certificate programs are available, and training in the anatomy of the eye is helpful. After six months of experience in the field, an aspiring optical assistant can take an exam to earn the Certified Paraoptometic designation.
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 (2014-2024)*||24% (for dispensing opticians)|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$34,840 (for dispensing opticians)|
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. 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 24% from 2014-2024. The median annual salary of dispensing opticians was $34,840 as of May 2015, per BLS reports.
The 24% job growth projected for optical assistants from 2014-2024 is much higher than average when compared to all occupations. Applicants who complete their high school diploma, have training in the anatomy of the eye or have a postsecondary certificate should be able to compete effectively for jobs in this field.