Education programs for ophthalmology technicians are typically certificate or associate degree programs. These programs normally take around one year at the certificate level and two years at the associate's degree level.
Students learn about eye diseases and their treatments, along with how contact lenses and glasses are used to treat eye problems. A program's clinical coursework teaches students to do diagnostic tests, observe eye movement, fit patients for contact lenses and help ophthalmologists during minor surgeries. Students get hands-on experience, and they participate in clinical rotations at an eye doctor's office toward the end of their studies.
After completing an accredited ophthalmology technician training program, individuals may pursue the Certified Ophthalmic Technician (COT) certification that is offered by the Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology (JCAHPO). Those who do not complete an accredited program can still qualify to take the certification exam if they have work experience and possess the Certified Ophthalmic Assistant (COA) certification from the same organization.
Here are some common concepts explored in ophthalmology technician courses:
- Ocular disease
- Refractive errors
- Color vision testing
- Eye muscle evaluation
- Ophthalmic photography
List of Courses
Optics for Ophthalmology Technicians
In this course, students learn the properties of light and geometric optics, including refraction and reflection. Understanding how light bends and reflects through the eye is key to understanding the principles of vision. Topics covered include how glasses and contact lenses can improve refraction and reflection problems in the human eye. This introductory course can be taken at the beginning of an ophthalmology technician program.
Eye Anatomy and Physiology
Students become familiar with the structure and development of the human eye in this course. Topics include the functions of internal and external parts of the eye, including the pupil, iris, retina, cornea, crystalline lens, vitreous membrane and optic nerve. Medical terminology related to the visual system is reviewed. This is an essential early course.
Vision Diagnostics for Ophthalmology Technicians
Ophthalmology techs assist ophthalmologists by creating a written record of a patient's medical history and performing basic diagnostic tests to assess the patient's vision. Students learn to measure nearsightedness and farsightedness. Students observe eye movement with ophthalmologic instruments to determine the existence of such problems as amblyopia, also known as lazy eye.
Eye Disease and Pharmacologic Treatment
Before learning about the medications used in diagnosing and treating eye diseases, students examine the causes and symptoms of eye disease. Pharmaceuticals used by ophthalmologists are introduced along with dosage and side effect information of commonly used drugs. This course is completed in both the classroom and laboratory.
A survey of contact lens materials, shapes and other properties is presented. Students learn to use specialized equipment for ensuring proper lens fit. Contact lens cleaning and storage are discussed. This course is typically completed in the second year of a 2-year program.
Assisting During Ophthalmic Surgery
Minor ophthalmic surgeries are performed by ophthalmologists with the assistance of an ophthalmology tech. This course is designed to introduce technicians to minor surgeries, the instruments used in these surgeries and sterile operating room procedures, such as scrubbing, gloving and gowning. Identification of instruments used in eye surgery is emphasized. This advanced course is taken near the end of the ophthalmology program.