Certification is the preferred path to employment for optometric technicians. Some employers will provide training to help new, uncertified employees achieve the Certified Paraoptometric Technician (CPOT) designation. There is a written and a practical component to the certification test. Optometric technicians are expected to renew their certification every three years. Renewal involves completing continued education to show that the technician's knowledge is current.
|Required Education||High school diploma or equivalent|
|Required Experience||Six months|
|Other Requirements||Accredited optometric technician program preferred|
|Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)*||12% for ophthalmic laboratory technicians|
|Median Salary (2015)**||$25,837|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; **PayScale.com
Optometric Technician Overview
Optometric technicians perform vision tests and eye examinations. They operate equipment and record data for review by the optometrist. As well as dispensing glasses and lenses, optometric technicians help patients choose frames and contacts and do fittings and adjustments. They may also have administrative duties such as scheduling appointments and maintaining inventory.
Optometric technicians must know physiology and anatomy, particularly that of the eye and eye muscles. Additionally, they must study the optical principles of light in order to effectively dispense lenses. They take case histories and perform clinical procedures, and they must be trained in first aid and vision therapy. In the optometrist's office and lab, optometric technicians must maintain sterile and sanitary conditions and know the laws regulating the field. In July 2015, PayScale.com showed a median annual salary of $25,837 for these workers, with most earning between $19,177 and $33,379.
Optometric technicians need to have a high school diploma or equivalent, and they should complete an accredited optometric technician program. The American Optometric Association (AOA) maintains a listing of accredited programs on its website (www.aoa.org). The AOA's curriculum standards include required study in topics such as ophthalmic dispensing, ocular emergencies, office management, medical terminology and contact lens fitting.
Certification is not always required. However, many employers prefer to hire certified optometric technicians, although some will provide training to help new employees achieve the Certified Paraoptometric Technician (CPOT) designation.
Students who have completed a program that is approved by the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education are qualified to take the CPOT examinations. The AOA administers certification tests several times at many locations throughout the year.
Candidates who have already earned certification as a lower-level paraoptometric assistant are also qualified to take the CPOT exam after they've completed at least six months of work experience. Assistants have less training and perform fewer exam and procedural job duties; for example, they are unable to dispense lenses. Instead, they perform more general office tasks. Their salaries are usually less than those of a certified technician.
The CPOT test has a written and a practical component. Topics on the written component include the following:
- Vision acuity and screening
- Keratometry (assessment of a cornea's curvature, such as for diagnosing astigmatism)
- Tonometry (measurement of interior eye pressure)
- Sphygmomanometry (blood pressure measurement)
- Low vision
- Special ocular procedures
- Refractive errors (blurred vision caused by retinal focus problems)
- Binocular vision.
The practical portion includes such tasks as pre-testing procedures, pupil dilation, blood pressure procedures and neutralization. After passing the exam, Certified Paraoptometric Technicians are expected to renew their certification every three years. Renewal involves completing continued education to show that the technician's knowledge is current.