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Schools for Optometric Technicians and Assistants: How to Choose

Certificate and associate's degree programs are available for both optometric technicians and optometric assistants at community colleges and technical schools. Certificate programs typically consist of one year or less of study, while associate's degree programs can take twice as long to complete. However, credits earned in an associate's degree program might transfer to a 4-year college or university.

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Students who want to become optometric assistants or technicians can pursue training at colleges, technical schools and universities. These schools typically award certificates, though associate's degree programs might be available as well.

Schools for Optometric Technicians and Assistants

These schools provide the necessary training for aspiring optometric technicians and assistants:

College/University Location Institution Type Programs Offered Tuition and Fees (In-state, 2015-2016)*
Miami Valley Career Technology Center Englewood, OH <2-year, Public Certificate $7,950 (program cost, 2017)
Oakland Community College Bloomfield Hills, MI 2-year, Public Certificate $5,235
Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico - Arecibo Arecibo, Puerto Rico 4-year, Private Associate's degree $5,028
Northern Essex Community College Haverhill, MA 2-year, Public Certificate $4,560
New Mexico State University - Alamogordo Alamogordo, NM 2-year, Public Certificate $2,328
St Philip's College San Antonio, TX 2-year, Public Associate's degree $5,550
Spokane Community College Spokane, WA 2-year, Public Certificate, Associate's degree $3,388
Georgia Piedmont Technical College Clarkston, GA 2-year, Public Certificate $2,840
Indiana University - Bloomington Bloomington, IN 4-year, Public Certificate, Associate's degree $10,388

*Sources: National Center for Education Statistics, School websites

School Selection Criteria

Here are some important things to consider when choosing an optometric technician or assistant school:

  • Many states require licensure for optometric assistants and technicians. To ensure they qualify for licensure upon graduation, students should look for programs that are accredited by the Commission on Paraoptometric Certification.
  • Students should consider the amount of time they have to commit to a program as well as their educational goals. While a certificate may be earned in less than a year, a 2-year associate's degree may lead to more job opportunities and be a better investment of time in the long run.
  • Students who want to continue working while obtaining their degrees should look for online options, which offer greater scheduling flexibility.
  • Students should explore internship and clinical experience opportunities, which may improve job prospects after graduation.

Optometric Technician Certificate Programs

These programs typically consist of 10-20 weeks of classroom instruction and approximately 120 hours of a clinical internship. Instruction often covers such topics as ocular anatomy, eyewear fabrication and contact lens fitting.

Optometric Assistant Certificate Programs

These programs generally require three semesters of study. Students usually are required to complete an internship. Topics of study can include minor surgical assisting and optics.

Optometric Technician Associate's Degree Programs

These 2-year programs consist of general education, as well as field-specific coursework. Both Associate in Science and Associate of Applied Science in Optometric Technician programs are available. Most programs require students to complete at least two internships.

Optometric Assistant Associate's Degree Programs

Optometric assistant degree programs consist of approximately 60 credit hours and require two years of study. Typical degrees awarded include an Associate in Science or Associate in Applied Science in Optometric Assisting. Students typically are required to complete two or more semesters of clinical externships.

There are several certificate and associate's degree programs that can prepare aspiring optometric technicians and assistants for a career in the field. Prospective students should consider factors like accreditation, internship opportunities and program length to make sure they choose the right one.

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