How does one become an ophthalmic assistant, ophthalmic technician, or ophthalmic technologist?
There are two ways to enter the field. You can go to a school or a training program for ophthalmic medical personnel, or you can advance in the field via on-the-job-training (OJT). There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods.
The are two advantages to attending a school or training program for ophthalmic medical personnel. One advantage is that you can become a technician or a technologist without working your way through the lower level(s) of certification. The other advantage is that it is a structured program with a defined timeline. The main disadvantage is that it costs money and time. Another disadvantage is that certification is not guaranteed. The program graduate must still take the certification exam in order to become certified.
The primary advantage of the OJT method is that you are being paid while you learn and advance. A disadvantage is that there is usually a loose structure to the training program and you must be a "self-starter" in terms of learning. Another disadvantage is that it is generally more difficult to get an entry level ophthalmic assistant job this way. It is often a "catch-22" situation. You can't get an ophthalmic assistant job unless you are experienced, and you can't get experience unless you have a job. The OJT OMP must work his/her way through the levels of certification. You can't become a COT® (technician) unless you have worked as a COA® for one year. You can't become a COMT® (technologist) until you have worked as a COT® for three years.
Many OMPs get their start in the field by taking a job in an ophthalmology office as a receptionist or in some other "office" job. The receptionist proves to be a good employee, and then the receptionist is trained to be an ophthalmic assistant when a job opens up. The new assistant can advance in the field by becoming a certified assistant and then training/studying to become a certified technician and then a certified technologist, all while working in the field and being paid.
This first step is to determine if attending a school is right for you. Here is a list of schools in the US and Canada. At present, there is no online school that results in certification. The problem with online training is that there is no concurrent hands-on training available like there is in a conventional school setting.
For many people, attending a school or a training program may not be an option. There may not be a school close by and/or the expense of time and money may be too great. Fortunately, there is an on-the-job training option. As previously mentioned, the problem is finding an employer who will hire you as a trainee. One factor in your favor is that the turnover rate for ophthalmic assistant jobs is fairly high. The turnover rate for ophthalmic technicians and technologists is much less.
Watch online job sites and local listings for ophthalmic assistant job listings in your area. Sometimes "will train" jobs are listed. Eyetec.net offers online training courses that may give you an edge in the competition for these trainee jobs. Employers prefer to hire someone who is already trained and has experience, but if the market is dry, the employer may be willing to train. If you determine that an ophthalmic assistant job notice has been listed for several weeks, you might call and ask if they will consider a trainee, in particular a trainee who has already started the training process by taking the online course.
Once you are working in an eye care office, eyetec.net will continue to be a valuable training asset. When it is time for you to certify, we have exam preparation courses. When you are certified, we have CE courses that are designed to help you move to the next level of certification.