What Is an Ophthalmic Technician? (With Steps to Become One)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published November 28, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Ophthalmic technicians are highly skilled professionals who work in eye care and health. Employers of these professionals rarely require a bachelor's degree, and training is available to anyone with a high school diploma. If you're interested in pursuing a healthcare career but prefer not to attend medical school, learning more about the job of an ophthalmic technician may be helpful. In this article, we answer "What is an ophthalmic technician?", share their responsibilities, discuss the work environment, provide steps for becoming one, and highlight some valuable skills.

What is an ophthalmic technician?

Learning to answer "What is an ophthalmic technician?" can help you determine if this is a suitable career path for you. Ophthalmic technicians are medical professionals who assist ophthalmologists in caring for patients' eyes and eyesight. While these technicians may perform more duties than an ophthalmic assistant, they may still require the supervision of a licensed medical technologist when providing advanced care. Ophthalmic technologists work alongside ophthalmologists to perform eye exams, diagnose diseases, and administer treatments. Ophthalmology clinics and offices typically hire these professionals.

Read more: Optician vs. Ophthalmologist vs. Optometrist: Differences

What does an ophthalmic technician do?

Ophthalmology technicians use several specialized skills to carry out their daily duties. Depending on their skill level and practical experience, they may perform various tasks that involve providing care for patients and assisting the resident ophthalmologist. Some responsibilities these professionals might have include:

  • asking patients about their symptoms and recording the information for the doctor

  • performing preliminary exams and tests

  • cleaning and maintaining ophthalmic equipment

  • supporting the ophthalmologist during eye surgeries and procedures

  • administering medications and topical treatments

  • examining test results and contributing to diagnostic discussions

  • answering patients' questions and encouraging healthy habits

  • writing, editing, and filing patient medical records

Ophthalmic technician work environment

Ophthalmic technicians work in well-lit, clean office settings, clinics, or hospitals. As they usually work with many patients, it's helpful if you have an outgoing personality and are comfortable speaking with patients you don't know well. These professionals usually work 35 to 40 hours a week and spend much of their time walking and standing. Ophthalmic technicians rarely work evenings or weekends, but hours can vary depending on the employer.

Read more: Types of Hospital Jobs to Consider (With Salaries)

How to become an ophthalmic technician

Here are the steps to take if you're interested in becoming an ophthalmic technician:

1. Get a high school diploma

The first step to becoming an ophthalmic technician is earning a high school diploma or GED equivalent. When in high school, you might meet with your school counsellor to discuss your aspirations to work as an ophthalmic technician and ask if they have any advice. To ensure you have a strong educational foundation for this career path, consider taking biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics, humanities, and social studies classes.

Read more: 15 Jobs That Don't Require a Degree (With Salaries)

2. Consider pursuing a degree

While many employers don't require ophthalmic technicians to have a bachelor's degree, earning one can make you a more competitive candidate. Formal education provides aspiring ophthalmic technicians with general knowledge and reasoning skills that can benefit their careers. Some majors you might consider include medicine, biology, and veterinary science.

Read more: How to Become an Ophthalmologist in 9 Simple Steps

3. Obtain necessary training

The next step is to acquire specialized training. There are two primary options for pursuing ophthalmic technician training. The first is to receive a certificate in ophthalmic practice from an accredited institution. Ophthalmic technician diplomas typically take one to two years to earn. The required coursework covers subjects like anatomy, medical terminology, ethics, and other topics unique to ophthalmology. Certification programs also involve practical clinical and hands-on learning.

The second option for obtaining training is to work as a trainee in an ophthalmology clinic or private practice. Some employers offer on-the-job training programs for promising job applicants. These training periods involve learning ophthalmic practice through observation and supervised practice. Once you've proven your competence and skills, the employer may qualify you to pursue certification.

Read more: What Is On-The-Job Training? (With Tips and Benefits)

4. Become certified

Many employers require their ophthalmic technicians to earn a certification before practising professionally. The International Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology (IJCAHPO) offers certifications many employers accept in Canada. The IJCAHPO offers three certifications it awards according to the individual's skill and experience level. These certificates include:

  • Certified Ophthalmic Assistant (COA)

  • Certified Ophthalmic Technician (COT)

  • Certified ophthalmic Medical Technologist (COMT)

Ophthalmic professionals who wish to specialize in ophthalmic surgery or another field may achieve additional certification. To become certified, you can take and pass a knowledge exam. This test covers various topics related to eye care, eye health, ocular diseases, examination methods, and ophthalmic procedures and medicines. If you pass the COA exam, you may work as an ophthalmic assistant for one year before taking the COT exam.

5. Gain practical experience

Before becoming certified as a technician or pursuing open technician positions, you can gain experience working as an ophthalmic assistant. While working as an entry-level assistant, you may learn to function successfully in a professional environment. This experience includes becoming familiar with the employees, tools, and daily activities common in every ophthalmology facility. Assisting the resident technicians and doctors can provide valuable experience in caring for patients and adhering to the office's policies.

Read more: How to Gain Experience to Advance Your Career in 12 Steps

6. Update your resume

Next, you can create a well-written resume highlighting your certifications, experience, and relevant skills. For example, you might include the names of the certifications you've earned. It's vital to ensure your ophthalmic technician resume includes the following sections:

  • Contact information: your name, address, phone number, and e-mail address

  • Professional summary: a few sentences explaining why you're a suitable candidate for the ophthalmic technician role

  • Work experience: the organization name, your job title, your primary responsibilities, and the time you worked each job, typically in months and years

  • Education: the name of your school, the months and years that you attended the school, and the name of your degree

  • Skills: any hard and soft skills you've gained can help you excel in the ophthalmic technician role

  • Certification: all relevant certifications that you may have earned

Before you submit your resume to potential employers, revise it for misspellings, grammar mistakes, and awkward phrasing. You might have a family member or friend review your resume before you send it. They may notice mistakes you missed or have suggestions you didn't consider. You can also draft a cover letter tailored to suit each potential employer.

Read more: 10 Steps on How to Update a Resume (Benefits and Tips)

7. Apply for jobs

Once you've earned your degree, acquired training, obtained certification, gained experience, and written your resume, you're qualified to pursue open technician positions. Some employers might offer ophthalmic technicians classes in the same workplace where they previously trained or worked as assistants. Conversely, you might decide to pursue jobs with other employers. You can find ophthalmic job listings using online job boards, local publications, professional directories, and your network.

Read more: When Is the Best Time to Apply for a Job? (With Tips)

8. Prepare for your interview

Once you submit your resume to employers, you can prepare for potential interviews. Your interview is likely the last step before getting the job as an ophthalmic technician, so it's crucial you impress the hiring manager. To prepare, you can research interview questions that an employer of ophthalmic technicians might ask and consider your answers. You can practise a mock interview with a friend or family member and ask for feedback so that you know what to practise. Try to arrive five to 10 minutes before your interview and dress neatly. It's important to act friendly, professional, and polite during the interview.

Read more: How to Use Interview Body Language to Project Confidence

Valuable skills for ophthalmic technicians

There are various hard and soft skills that can help you excel as an ophthalmic technician, including:

Hard skills

Hard or technical skills are objective skills you can gain through education, experience, or training. For example, once an employer hires you as an ophthalmic technician, they may train you to sterilize instruments properly. Here are some hard skills you might use as an ophthalmic technician:

  • instrument sterilization and maintenance

  • keratometry

  • lensometry

  • medical charting

  • medication administration

  • ocular motility

  • pupillary assessment

  • refractometry

  • surgical assistance

  • tonometry

  • visual assessment and visual fields

Read more: What's the Difference between Hard Skills and Soft Skills?

Soft skills

Soft skills relate to your attributes that allow you to interact effectively with other individuals. For example, you might practise being empathetic towards patients who express pain so that they feel understood and have a positive experience. Here are some soft skills you might use as an ophthalmic technician:

  • active listening

  • attention to detail

  • collaborative attitude

  • compassion and empathy

  • emotional intelligence

  • interpersonal communication

  • multitasking

  • organization

  • problem solving

  • teaching

Please note that none of the companies, institutions, or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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