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How to Become a Ophthalmic Technician

If every medical professional worked alone, the healthcare system would be overwhelmed. Schedules would be double and triple-booked, waiting rooms packed, and inaccurate, out of date info would likely never change. This is where the help of an ophthalmic technician changes the game.

Surprisingly, becoming an ophthalmic technician doesn't require years of medical education. As long as you have your high school diploma, you need only take a few more steps. If you want to break into the field of medicine and love to learn, read on to learn how to become an ophthalmic technician.

What Is an Ophthalmic Technician?

Ophthalmic medical technicians work directly alongside eye doctors, helping with many different duties and responsibilities. Ophthalmic medical techs are invaluable resources for eye doctors during their hectic schedules. You can usually find them in doctors' offices, clinics, and hospitals.

What Does an Ophthalmic Technician Do?

An ophthalmic technician performs a wide range of duties both inside and outside the eye exam room.

Assists Ophthalmologists

An ophthalmic tech’s primary role is to assist the ophthalmologist with anything they need when dealing with a patient. Ophthalmic techs can speak at length with patients regarding optical medication, medical histories, and more.

Performs Clerical Tasks

When not assisting the eye doctor, ophthalmic technicians perform many clerical and administrative duties. Working at the front desk at a private practice and arranging appointments are typical tasks an ophthalmic technician deals with outside the exam room.

Performs Tests and Some Procedures on Patients

Before a patient sees the ophthalmologist, ophthalmic medical personnel can perform specific diagnostic tests and minor procedures. This is an excellent benefit for the ophthalmologist, as it takes some pressure off of a busy schedule. You need to be a walking, talking encyclopedia on individual patients' medical history.

Essential Ophthalmic Technician Skills

Communication Skills

It might be a given, but the ability to communicate effectively with patients regarding eye care is crucial. Ophthalmic technicians often explain certain medications' functions to patients. This means they need to know proper dosages, side effects, and any other pertinent information about eye medicine.

Organization and Cleaning Skills

When ophthalmic technicians aren't conducting necessary eye exams, they are often doing extensive administrative duties. Organization goes beyond organizing files. Exam rooms and medical instruments need cleaning and sterilizing.

Math and Science Proficiency

Yes, that's right, you're going to need to be adept at math and science if you want to succeed as a certified ophthalmic technician. While they can help with more clerical tasks, ophthalmic technicians also do diagnostic tests and scans for patients. These require specific scientific training and measurement skills. Technicians will perform brightness acuity tests and special photographic duties regarding the fundus (the back of the eyeball).

Ophthalmic Technician Salaries and Job Outlook

The national average salary for ophthalmic technicians is around $39,000 to $60,000 per year. It depends on where you work and whom you work for. Your years of experience will also impact your salary.

The job outlook for ophthalmic technicians is excellent. The job will experience steady job growth of around 16 percent over the coming years.

Luckily, ophthalmologists will always need a helping hand. Additionally, everyone's eyesight fades eventually, so getting started as an ophthalmic technician is a surefire way to remain employed.

This role is also a standard jumping-off point for future career advancement. Becoming an ophthalmic technician gives individuals a ton of job security and opportunity for promotion after several years' of experience.

How Long Does it Take to Become an Ophthalmic Technician?

It can take as little as a year, depending on the type of tech you want to be. After earning your high school diploma, you can quickly jump right into an associate degree in an applicable major.

Going to community college can give you excellent opportunities to succeed in specialized fields like ophthalmology. There are also various certification programs and training programs to bolster your credentials and get you hired.

Ophthalmic assistants, who rank below ophthalmic technicians, don't need their associate degree to find employment.

How to Become an Ophthalmic Technician: A Step by Step Guide

Now that you know more about this profession, let's see just how to become an ophthalmic technician.

Step 1: Make Sure You Have Your High School Diploma

Regardless of your higher education status, you absolutely need to have your high school diploma or equivalent.

Step 2: Get Educated

Earning your associate degree is a crucial part of becoming a certified ophthalmic technician.

Step 3: Get on the Job Training

There is the possibility of earning your way toward a stable ophthalmic technician career through valuable on-the-job training. This more or less works as an internship or shadow program.

If you're a certified ophthalmic assistant, you will perform your duties along with learning newer, more advanced practices. This further equips you for your eventual status as more advanced health personnel in ophthalmology.

Even if you choose to acquire a degree, it's still prudent to intern or shadow an experienced ophthalmic technician.

Step 4: Get Certified

The most important part of the process is earning levels of certification required of you. There are a few options to choose from.

You could become a certified ophthalmic assistant, certified ophthalmic technician, or a certified ophthalmic medical technologist. The great thing about all three is that they offer ample room for advancement in the field.

The Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology

This is perhaps the most useful organization to receive different levels of certification.

The Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology, or JCAHPO, is the premier organization specializing in educating and certifying future and current ophthalmic techs.

JCAHPO has comprehensive educational programs dedicated to those looking to continue their education.

Should You Become an Ophthalmic Technician in 2020?

While the entry-level salary for ophthalmic technicians isn't the best, the ability to advance within the healthcare industry after years of experience is fantastic. Whether you decide to get your associate degree or learn as you go, it's entirely up to you.

After several years, you could earn different levels of certification and boost your career. If all of the above appeals to you, becoming an ophthalmic technician is an excellent choice for a career.


What is the difference between an ophthalmic assistant and an ophthalmic technician?
The main difference between the two is that the assistant has much less responsibility than an ophthalmic technician. However, the technician can provide exams, assist during surgical procedures, and discuss a patient's medical history at length. In some locations, all you need to become an assistant is to have a high school diploma.
Is ophthalmic technician a good career?
This career boasts significantly low levels of stress. That, coupled with the opportunity for upward mobility within the healthcare industry, makes being an ophthalmic technician a solid career choice.
Do you need to go to medical school to become an ophthalmic technician?
No, you don't need to go to medical school. You can bypass getting degrees at all if you so choose. We recommend getting at least your associate degree to give yourself a better chance at career advancement. Regardless, you don't need to sink a ton of time and money into becoming a tech.
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