Optometric Assistant Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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Learn about an optometric assistant's job duties, salary and training requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of an optometric assistant career.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming an Optometric Assistant

Optometric assistants provide administrative and clinical support to optometrists. Read on for some of the pros and cons of a career as an optometric assistant to see if it seems like the right choice for you.

Pros of Being an Optometric Assistant
High job growth (employment for medical assistants was expected to increase by 23% from 2014 to 2024)*
No postsecondary education required*
Certification is available to demonstrate qualifications and expertise**
Contribute to people's well-being by supporting their vision and eye health***

Cons of Being an Optometric Assistant
Relatively low salary for the medical field*
May have to work evenings and weekends*
Must undergo continuing education to retain (non-required) professional certification**
Advancement in the field (to optometric technician, for example) requires further education or formal training***

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **American Optometric Association, ***Michigan Jobs & Career Portal.

Career Information

Job Duties

Optometric assistants assist optometrists - physicians that provide eye and vision care - with both administrative tasks and duties related to patient eye care. Responsibilities may include greeting patients, coordinating medical records and scheduling patient appointments as well as performing vision tests and demonstrating to patients how to put in and take out contact lenses. In some cases, optometric assistants may administer eye drops to patients and position them at eye test machinery in preparation for examination by the optometrist.

Optometric assistants may also help patients pick out eyeglass frames and use specialized tools to adjust glasses to ensure the correct fit. These workers generally work regular full-time hours, though some weekend work may be necessary when the office is open.

Salary Information and Career Outlook

Among other factors, an aging population was expected to contribute to the growth of the medical assisting field in coming years. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected a 23% employment increase for medical assistants, including optometric assistants, between 2014 and 2024. While optometric assistants' salaries can vary depending on location and qualifications, the BLS indicated that in 2014, the median annual income for medical assistants was around $29,960, with the highest-paid workers in the field earning more than $42,760.

Job Skills and Requirements

There are no educational requirements for being an optometric assistant beyond a high school diploma or equivalent. Most employers will provide training to help you learn how to undertake essential duties, such as performing eye tests, cleaning equipment and recording measurements for eyeglass frames and lenses.

Useful Skills

Optometric assistants work with physicians, nurses and other medical staff, so a level of professionalism is necessary. There are also a number of personal capacities you'll want to possess in order to do this job effectively. Among them are:

  • Interpersonal skills
  • Visualization aptitude to assist customers in choosing eyeglass frames
  • Technical expertise in optical equipment and instruments
  • Basic mathematical skills to perform measurements for eyeglass frames and lenses
  • Ability to uphold confidentiality standards in regard to patient medical information and records

What Employers Are Looking For

While most employers are willing to train employees, some prefer candidates who already have prior experience in optical work. An orientation toward customer service and patient care is frequently requested by employers, as is the capacity to work as a team in a medical setting. Here are some actual job listings found in May 2012 to give you an idea of what employers are currently seeking:

  • A healthcare corporation in Arizona searched for an experienced optometric assistant to assist patients in choosing eyeglass frames, clean ophthalmic equipment and maintain patient medical files. A candidate with paraoptometric technician certification and an associate degree was preferred.
  • A private practice in Virginia sought a candidate to assist optometrists with patient exams in a busy atmosphere. Experience in optical assisting was desired but training would be provided.
  • A North Carolina eye care office was looking for an experienced candidate to welcome patients and determine their reason for visiting, perform basic vital tests (such as blood pressure measurement) and undertake administrative tasks. Prior experience in optometric support was desired.
  • An Indiana-based optometry office advertised for a candidate to oversee administrative office duties and administer vision tests to patients prior to their seeing the doctor. Strong customer service skills were a requirement, and optometric knowledge was preferred.

How to Make Your Skills Stand Out

Certification

The American Optometric Association offers professional certification for optometric assistants (also called paraoptometrics). To become a Certified Paraoptmetric, you need to have a high school diploma, a minimum of six months of experience working in eye care and must pass a written exam. While certification isn't required for optometric assistants, it may demonstrate to employers your knowledge and understanding of basic optometric concepts and commitment to the field, giving you an edge in the candidate pool.

Higher Education

Some community and vocational colleges offer certificate and associate degree programs in optometric assisting. These programs offer instruction in eyeglass and contact lens preparation, basic vision testing, eye anatomy and other topics. This kind of formal training will not only afford you relevant expertise but may also increase your appeal as a job candidate.

Alternative Career Paths

If being an optometric assistant doesn't seem like the right career for you, you may want to consider some related jobs in the healthcare field. If you're not so interested in eye care but would still like to work in a medical setting, you could consider becoming a dental assistant. Dental assistants support dentists by seating and preparing patients for dental exams, cleaning and arranging instruments used during examinations, scheduling appointments and handling billing processes. Depending on the state where you want to work, you may need to complete higher education or pass a state test to do this job. The BLS predicted a job growth of 31% for dental assistants between 2010 and 2020. This option made a median income of about $34,000 as of 2011.

If you aren't as interested in working in a medical office but still want to be involved in the healthcare field, becoming a pharmacy technician is something to think about. These professionals work in pharmacies assisting customers, measuring medicines or counting pills for prescriptions, affixing labels to prescription containers and processing payments. Different states have different requirements for becoming a pharmacy technician; in some states, a high school diploma is sufficient. The BLS indicated that the median annual salary for pharmacy technicians in 2011 was approximately $29,000. The occupation was expected to undergo an employment increase of 32% from 2010 to 2020.

Popular Schools

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Featured Schools

George Mason University

  • Master of Science in Health Informatics

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Kaplan University

  • Master of Healthcare Admin
  • Master: Nursing/Nurse Administrator
  • Bachelor: Health Science
  • Bachelor: Healthcare Admin

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The George Washington University

  • Graduate Certificate in Clinical Operations and Healthcare Management

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Keiser University

  • Associate of Sciences - Medical Assistant

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Colorado State University Global

  • Graduate Specialization - Healthcare Administration

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American University

  • Master of Science in Healthcare Management

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Saint Joseph's University

  • MS in Health Administration

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Herzing University

  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Project Management

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