Working On The Front Lines Of The Eye Care Profession - Optical Assistant Certification

Do you enjoy interacting with people and would love to assist them with their eye care needs? Are you able to thrive in a team environment and are passionate about providing great customer service? If so, working as an optical assistant will enable you to do all of this and more. It is a career path that places you on the front lines of the eye care profession where you not only help to make patients feel welcome and ease, but also assist them with making the right choices for their prescriptions. If you would like to help people banish their eyesight woes and improve their quality of life, then studying to become an optical assistant is the right choice.

Optical Assistant Certification Information

Typically the only requirements to work as an optical assistant is a high school diploma while other skills can be gained via on-the-job training. However, obtaining certification in this field can lead to better career growth compared to other medical assistants without professional certification.

Certification Levels

Certified Paraoptometric (CPO)

Becoming a certified paraoptometric involves completing a 100 multiple-choice question examination successfully. These questions generally relate to categories such as ophthalmic optics and dispensing, clinical principles and procedures and basic science. In order to qualify for this exam you must first have worked in the eye care field for a minimum period of at least six months and hold a high school diploma or equivalent.

Certified Paraoptometric Assistant (CPOA)

This certification involves completing a 200 multiple-choice question examination successfully. Exam questions cover categories related to basic ocular anatomy and physiology, basic and special procedures, opthalmic optics and dispensing as well as practice management. It can be done after becoming and working for at least six months as a CPO. This certification qualifies you for additional duties, such as glaucoma screening, keratometry, measuring visual acuity and more.

Certified Paraoptometric Technician (CPOT)

The third and final credential in this field is also the most advanced and requires you to have been employed for at least six months as a CPOA. According to the American Optometric Association, this certification might qualify you for additional duties, such as modifying contact lenses, photographing the interior of the eye, explaining contact lens care regiments to patients and supervising staff. Earning this certification involves the completion of a 225 multiple-choice question examination related to practice management, anatomy and physiology, optics and dispensing, procedures and more.

Other Certifications

Online courses are also available that can teach you the basics of becoming an optical assistant. These types of courses can typically be completed in a matter of weeks and are broken up into lessons covering eye problems, front office optical assisting, the basics of contact lenses, specialty areas in optical assisting and more.

Optical Assistant Certification FAQs

Can I Study To Become An Optical Assistant Online?

Although it is not a requirement to work as an optical assistant, there are courses available for this profession that can be completed in an online format. The only requirements are usually a computer with internet access as well as a browser and e-mail access. Completing an online course is useful if you would like to learn more about the industry and expand your knowledge without having to commit to a full time course. An online course is generally also much more convenient to fit into a busy schedule.

What Are The Typical Duties of Optical Assistants?

The type of duties you might have when working as an optical assistant usually depends on your employer as well as the level of certification you hold. In most cases, your core duties include greeting patients when they arrive, overseeing their medical files, assisting them with the process of choosing eyewear as well as handling their payments. You will typically also be responsible for a lot of administrative duties, such as keeping in contact with patients about their orders or ensuring that stock levels of merchandise and supplies are sufficient. In addition, you could be required to answer the phones and perform other clerical duties. In some smaller practices you might even be tasked with administering basic eye tests or provide the optometrist with assistance during exams, but these tend to be exceptions rather than the norm.

Who Is An Ideal Candidate To Work In This Field?

When working as an optical assistant it is obviously vital that you have good communication skills as you will frequently interact with patients in person or on the phone. For this reason it is also essential that your customer service skills are above average and that you friendly as well as courteous. Equally important is your ability to function well as part of a team as your duties might involve working closely with lab opticians, ophthalmologists or optometrists. It can be helpful to have good stamina as this is a career path where you can spend large parts of the day on your feet. In addition, basic computer skills can be useful in this job for the clerical side of things.

How Much Can I Potentially Earn When Working As An Optical Assistant?

When working as an optical assistant your potential income can depend on factors such as the location and size of the practice as well as your level of experience and qualifications. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for medical assistants, which includes optometric assistants, is about $30,590 per year. Dispensing opticians earn a slightly higher median pay of $34,840 per year.

What Are The Other Advantages To Becoming An Optical Assistant?

The projected job growth for this career path from now until 2024 is estimated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to be much faster than other occupations. It is also a great choice for anyone interested in a retail job, but where you have more involvement and responsibility. Because you are assisting people in improving their vision, which in turns influences the quality of their life, it can be a very rewarding occupation.

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