Do You Need to Go to School to Be an Optometric Assistant?

Do You Need to Go to School to Be an Optometric Assistant? thumbnail
Optometric assistants help clients with eyewear decisions.

Optometric assistants work in offices of optometrists or in vision centers to provide assistance to doctors and to perform basic vision tests and tasks. Optometric assistants may keep records, perform clerical tasks, assist clients with frame selection, place product orders, assist with lens production and instruct patients on proper use and care of eyewear and contact lenses. There are several paths to becoming an optometric assistant. Individuals who have received formal education and training are usually known as optometric technicians.

  1. On-the-Job Training

    • Most optometric assistants are hired by an optometrist or vision center and are trained on the job. The training programs help individuals learn how to use specialized instruments, how to perform basic medical tests, how to keep and file patient records and how to help clients select frames and care for them. They may also learn how to assist optometrists, prepare examining rooms and sanitize instruments. The length of training programs vary according to the needs of specific doctors and offices. Some programs may allow workers to receive incremental pay increases based on training sessions completed. Others may pay employees a training wage to start and increase pay after defined periods of time. In some instances, optometric assistants may also receive training on the job to become optometric technicians.

    Internships and Special Vocational Programs

    • Some individuals are able to gain experience as optometric assistants through internships or specialized high school vocational programs. The programs allow participants to learn necessary information and train for the field while gaining clinical experiences in doctor's offices, specialized labs and vision centers. These students may receive pay for their work in an office, or they may be required to complete a certain number of hours in order to receive credit for a course or high school program. The programs vary by employer or school; however, many high school vocational training programs require participants to complete two years of coursework before receiving specialized diplomas in optometric assisting.

    Formal Education and Certification Programs

    • Formal education or training programs are usually required for individuals to become optometric technicians. These workers receive higher pay and have greater job responsibilities. Education programs typically require months of coursework or the completion of specific classes and training programs. The completion of two years of coursework can result in an associate's degree or certification through the National Commission on Paraoptometric Certification. Optometric technicians administer more extensive screening and vision tests, measure patients for eyeglasses and perform patient eye care under the direction of an optometrist.

    Job Skills and Personality Traits

    • In addition to gaining specialized training through work or school, most successful optometric assistants are detail-oriented individuals who possess good reading, writing and mathematical skills. They are able to type, perform basic clerical duties and use computers. Additionally, these workers must have good customer service and communication skills in order to talk to and assist patients.

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