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Medical assistants and technicians who specialize in the care of the eyes can pursue certifications as ophthalmic medical technologists, ophthalmic technicians, and ophthalmic assistants. A career in eye care can begin with an associate's degree targeted toward one of these careers.
There are no online degree programs for ophthalmic technicians, but there are programs in related areas, such as opticianry and ophthalmic dispensing. Many programs call for hands-on clinical training, which students can usually complete at an eye care office near their homes.
State licensing requirements vary for ophthalmic dispensing, and students should make sure that any program they are considering meets the state regulations. Graduates may also be eligible for certification from national associations for eye care professionals.
Associate's Degrees in Ophthalmic Areas
An ophthalmic medical technician degree provides training in eye care, from eye anatomy and patient care to eyewear and contact lens dispensing. Colleges that offer ophthalmic programs typically award an Associate of Applied Science degree, though some schools offer shorter certificate programs with a narrower focus.
Applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent to enroll, and students may also be required to submit to a background check. Fully online programs for ophthalmic medical technologists don't exist, but some related programs in opticianry or ophthalmic dispensing can be earned in a distance learning format.
Information and Requirements
The associate's degree program generally takes two years to complete and a quality program will prepare students for state licensure and national certification from the Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology (www.jcahpo.org). Shorter online certificate programs are also available. With distance education, students complete the coursework at their convenience and typically submit assignments and take exams at the instructor's predetermined time. Some colleges offer degree as a hybrid, allowing students to take a small portion of coursework online and the rest in person, or students may be required to find a local mentor to supervise some hands-on lab work.
Ideally, online programs ask students to have access to high-speed Internet and a computer with plenty of hard drive space and memory. Colleges typically provide an online portal system through which students and their peers interact with their instructors and complete their assignments. Students should have a common and up-to-date Web browser to log into their online campus. Some schools only support certain browsers so it's best to check in advance.
A skills-based degree, ophthalmic programs give students a solid understanding of the eye, eye care, methods for measuring sight, medications, exams, corrective lenses, patient care, surgeries and treatments .
The course teaches students about human eye function and the physiology of its parts. Students also learn common terminology.
Students learn the fundamentals of optics as they relate to the human eye. They learn the basics of lenses, skills for measuring lens types and the ins and outs of typical equipment.
Introduction to Contact Lenses
Students are introduced to the basics of contact lenses such as their structure, manufacture and type. They learn about common instruments for fitting and evaluating contact lenses.
Career Information for Graduates
Ophthalmic medical assistants are categorized along with medical assistants by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and professionals in that field earned a median annual wage of $30,590 in May of 2015 (www.bls.gov). Ophthalmic laboratory technicians who work with lenses in a manufacturing capacity rather than with patients earned an median annual salary of $29,860 during the same month, according to the BLS. Those who hold an associate's degree may also find work as dispensing opticians, who earned an median annual salary of $34,840. Between 2014 and 2024, the numbers of ophthalmic laboratory technicians are expected to grow by 10%, an outlook that is faster than average for all occupations and by 24% for dispensing opticians, according to the federal agency.
Students wanting to become a medical assistant in the area of eye care may find online programs for certifications as ophthalmic medical technologists. Students may also pursue more and advanced careers by earning an online associate's degree in opticianry or ophthalmic dispensing.