How do I Become an Ophthalmic Assistant?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 12 July 2019
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Ophthalmic assistants perform administrative and direct patient care duties in ophthalmologists' offices. They typically have a wide range of duties, from taking patient histories to cleaning and preparing exam rooms. The requirements to become an ophthalmic assistant vary by region and sometimes by specific employers. Most workers enter the profession after completing six-month to one-year programs at allied health schools and passing national certification exams. With experience and ongoing training, an entry-level ophthalmic assistant can advance to a technician or technologist position and take on additional responsibilities.

The minimum education requirement to become an ophthalmic assistant is a high school diploma, but most assistants decide to pursue vocational training before applying for jobs. A six month or one year program at an allied health school, technical school, or community college can provide expert training for future professionals. Among other options, a student usually has the opportunity to take courses in anatomy, physiology, health, math, and medical office management. Hands-on lab classes introduce an individual to the type of diagnostic and testing equipment they will use in their careers, including microscopes, slit lamps, and x-ray machines.


In addition to mastering technical abilities, a person who wants to become an ophthalmic assistant needs to develop strong communication and organizational skills. Since most assistants work directly with patients, they need to be able to clearly explain procedures and accurately record pertinent patient information. Computer proficiency is essential in most modern ophthalmic centers, and assistants can expect to spend a significant part of their time entering information into patient files and scheduling appointments.

Certification is necessary to become an ophthalmic assistant in many regions. In the United States, prospective workers can take written exams administered by the Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology (JCAHPO). Most other countries feature organizations similar to the JCAHPO that certify new ophthalmic assistants. Certification tests ensure that assistants understand basic duties, terminology, and the importance of confidentiality and medical ethics. Information about testing dates and centers can typically be obtained online.

With the appropriate credentials, an individual can begin looking for entry-level opportunities to become an ophthalmic assistant. A person can browse job search Web sites, utilize career placement services at his or her school, and contact potential employers directly to find out about leads. Once a new worker lands a job, he or she can expect to spend several weeks in formal training to learn the particulars of the job. A skilled assistant typically has many opportunities for advancement after gaining several years of experience and passing additional certification tests.



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