Those who are interested in becoming an ophthalmic medical technologist first need to pass through a few preliminary steps being as though this is one of the more advanced stages within the profession. An ophthalmic technologist is a step above an ophthalmic technician as it involves more advanced duties and training. The road to becoming an ophthalmic technologist requires some schooling, but it can lead to a stable and rewarding career with lots of benefits.
Ophthalmic Technologist Job Duties
An ophthalmic technologist is considered to be a specialist in the eye care sector. The job is very detailed and involves the use of very advanced equipment, which consists of ophthalmic photos and ultrasound for the purpose of determining a patient’s condition. There are also specialty areas that apply to ophthalmic technologists, such as ophthalmic ultrasonography, electrophysiology, and ophthalmic surgical technology. These professionals even assist in surgeries and are capable of handling specialty equipment.
While ophthalmic technologists work for ophthalmologists, they frequently direct technicians and assistants, since they are a step up in the hierarchy. Their specific job duties are very technical as they use sophisticated eye care equipment to help with the diagnosis of patients. Technologists are entrusted with the responsibilities of performing diagnostic tests and must also be well versed in ophthalmic pharmacology. There is also a need to fully comprehend and be able to explain all of the intricacies involved in corrective lenses.
Ophthalmic technologists are adept at preparing instruments and also frequently use aseptic techniques. There are many instances when they conduct eye exams and can also be in charge of administering medication to the eye. An example of one of the more technical duties is conducting tonometry tests for the purpose of measuring patient’s intraocular pressure. Ophthalmic technologists may even be entrusted to take axial length measurements among patients.
It is for all those reasons that many ophthalmologists have come to rely heavily on their technologists as they serve as an integral part of a vision care team. There is also a need to be very precise as technologists need to make exact calculations. These individuals can explain complex eye conditions to patients and have a broader understanding than ophthalmic technicians or assistants. That enables them to provide instruction to their staff.
Ophthalmic Technologist Education
The first step to becoming an ophthalmic technologist is to earn a high school diploma or GED equivalency. That needs to be followed with a two-year college education in ophthalmic technology. There are an abundance of two-year colleges that offer associate’s degrees in ophthalmic technology. This must be followed up by 12 more continuing education credits. Graduates of two-year programs are eligible to enter the field as ophthalmic technicians, but require more training to be considered for a technologist position. Individuals who earn a bachelor’s degree in vision care technology or ophthalmic technology will qualify to work as a technologist.
Certified Medical Ophthalmic Technologist (CMOT)
The road to becoming a certified medical ophthalmic technologist (CMOT) requires a minimum two-year education and that needs to be coupled with another 12 continuing education credits. There are five levels of CMOT certifications distributed by the Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology. The first level does not require any work experience, but does need continuing education credits, in addition to a two-year degree. The second, third and fourth levels all require a minimum number of work hours along with more continuing education credits. There is also a fifth level that is the highest of all CMOT certifications and carries an extensive list of requirements.
Being certified as a CMOT is integral to finding employment. Because of the technical nature of the job, ophthalmologists are going to look to hire individuals who have been adequately trained. A certification can open up the door to higher pay and more responsibilities.
Various states have licensing procedures for their ophthalmic technicians and those licenses also apply to ophthalmic technologists. As technologists attain a more advanced education, certifications become critical as they signify a higher level of qualification than a license will in the eyes of potential employers. However, some states will require technologists to hold a standard technician license. Meanwhile, other states have no licensing requirements at all and the hiring criteria is then determined by each individual place of employment.
The CMOT distinction carries a lot of weight in the ophthalmic field and those who hold this certification can walk right into good-paying jobs that will equip them with an array of important job responsibilities. They will also immediately be placed higher up in the chain of command, although they will not supersede ophthalmologists.
Ophthalmic Technologist Pay Scale/Job Opportunities
A 2015 salary survey that was conducted by the Association of Technical Personnel in Ophthalmology and it found that an ophthalmic medical technologist’s average salary checked in at $69,000 per year. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not focus on that exact profession, but instead lumps all health technicians together. However, the factors that carry the greatest weight in determining an ophthalmic technologist’s salary are the number of years of residence and level of certification. That has created a broad range of salaries that start from the lower $40,000 range all the way up to $70,000 annually.
Routine job listings for ophthalmic technologists are less abundant than listings for ophthalmic technicians. The good news is that there are more job openings expected. There continues to be many new position openings as ophthalmic technologists are growing by 14% across the United States. Some states are experiencing a faster than average growth as new jobs are opening up in droves. Those who are looking to enter into this profession have a lot of earning potential and there also expects to be a good amount of job security for years to come.
Association of Technical Personnel in Ophthalmology
American Academy of Ophthalmology
Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology
International Council of Ophthalmology