An exciting and rewarding career as an optometric assistant awaits those who are in search of a job that continues to be in high demand. This growing profession presents the opportunity for career advancement and job stability for years to come. Getting started as an optometric assistant is quick and easy as there are a host of paths to take on this new career journey. It does not take long to become a valuable member in the field of opticianry, as optometric assistants are integral to vision care teams.
Optometric Assistant Duties and Job Responsibilities
An optometric assistant may also be referred to as optician assistant and it is their job to assist opticians and optometrists in vision care centers. There are customer service, clerical and technical aspects of the job. The customer service component deals with patients as optometric assistants greet customers, answer questions and conduct follow-ups. The clerical duties involve documenting patient histories, scheduling appointments, filing insurance claims and managing inventory.
There are also plenty of technical aspects of the job, which extend to taking visual acuity measurements, screening for glaucoma and measuring the distance between a patient’s pupils. Depending upon the size of the practice, there may be a need to perform many of the duties typically carried out by an optician.
Because of the multi-faceted job responsibilities, an optometric assistant is expected to possess strong organizational and communication skills. A strong attention to detail is also an added benefit as the job requires a good amount of precision. Optometric assistants typically find work in vision care centers as well as in private optometrist practices. Optometric assistants may also train on the job for a future bump in status to optometric technician, which carries a higher salary.
Optometric Assistant Education
To start out a career as an optometric assistant, one must first earn a high school diploma or GED equivalency. There are no prerequisite courses needed before starting out educational training as an optometric assistant. In fact, some skills are actually learned on the job. However, it helps to be acquainted with a foundation of knowledge in the optometric profession. That kind of foundation can be attained through the completion of an optometric assistant training program. These programs are offered through post-secondary schools, such as technical institutes, adult learning centers and community colleges.
The length of an optometric assistant educational program varies, although the average time frame is about six months. During that training, students will be taught the essentials when it comes to visual acuity and refractive errors. There are also detailed lessons on contact lenses, frame parts, frame types, in addition to much more. Students also learn about the anatomy of the eye, how to properly use optical equipment, and contact lens procedures. A formal education is not necessary to work as an optometric assistant, but is highly regarded among potential employers.
Optometric Assistant Certification
Becoming certified as an optometric assistant is not mandatory, although many employers favor hiring optometric assistants who hold a certification. This shows a higher level of training and understanding in the field of opticianry. The American Optometric Association offers various levels of certification, which includes a Certified Paraoptometric Assistant (CPOA) distinction. In order to earn this certification, a passing score must be earned on an exam given by the AOA. The CPOA certification consists of 200 questions, divided into various parts that include ocular physiology, basic procedures, ophthalmic dispensing and refractive eye status. Those with a CPOA distinction have displayed a firm understanding of optometric care and other various office functions.
There is also an entry level certification which is referred to as a CPO (Certified Paraoptometric. This signifies a rather basic understanding of optometric care. Training programs equip students with the necessary information and skills required to pass certification exams. Those who have not attended an educational training program can qualify to take these exams by showing work experience in the field. Each certification level has its own set of requirements that need to be sufficed before the exam can be taken.
The highest level of certification that can be achieved is a Certified Paraoptometric Technician (CPOT). This involves a lot of practical work and understanding as a CPOT is entrusted with more job responsibilities.
Optometric Assistant Salary
An optometric assistant who holds a certification can generally expect to earn a higher salary than those who are not certified. Across the United States, optometric assistants generally earn an average salary of $27,000 per year. This annual salary really depends on the location and level of experience. Optometric assistants who work in smaller facilities tend to earn a little more money because their job duties are usually increased. Those who hold certifications can also expect to earn higher wages.
When it comes to classifying the job of an optometric assistant, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lumps them in with all medical assistants. That is also a profession that is expanding at a rapid pace. There expects to be upwards of 20% more medical assistant jobs by the year 2024. Job postings for optometric assistants are appearing more frequently as industry growth has exemplified the need for more optometric assistants throughout the United States.
Optometric State Licensing
About half the states require opticians to obtain a license, although there is no licensing process for an optometric assistant. It is also important to note that optometric assistants can work their way up to the role of an optician. Being an optometric assistant can be the first step to an upward path through the field of opticianry. When applying for a position as an optometric assistant, candidates will not be asked for any form of licensing. However, it is a good idea to check the specifics within your state as that will be able to help guide your opticianry career path.
American Optometric Association
National Optometric Association
American Optometric Student Association