Pros and Cons of an Optometric Receptionist Career
An optometric receptionist handles a number of clerical and customer service tasks for an optometry, or eye care, office. All of the following pros and cons should be considered when deciding whether this is a career path you want to follow.
|Pros of an Optometric Receptionist Career|
|Average employment growth (14% for receptionists in 2012-2022)*|
|College degree not required*|
|Demand for receptionists highest in healthcare industry*|
|Typically work in a physically comfortable environment*|
|Cons of an Optometric Receptionist Career|
|Below average salary (2014 mean annual wage was about $28,000 for all receptionists)*|
|Staying current on relevant technology necessary*|
|Can be stressful dealing with unsatisfied clients/patients*|
Source: *Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Essential Career Facts
Greeting patients, scheduling appointments, collecting insurance information, answering phones - these are among the duties you can expect in a typical day as a receptionist in an optometric office. The receptionist is the first person to welcome individuals as they enter the clinic, which makes you the person they will often turn to for information and answers about the facility or its policies. In short, being an optometric receptionist has little to do with the practice of optometry; instead, your work will center on a combination of clerical and customer service tasks. This gives you the opportunity to interact with a variety of people, but also the opportunity to become stressed, especially if you're dealing with a difficult patient.
Salary and Career Outlook
Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported mean annual earnings of about $28,000 for all receptionists in 2014, those that worked in certain healthcare facilities - including optometry offices - earned a mean wage of about $26,000 that year (www.bls.gov). Though the salary is on the low side, the outlook for this occupation appears bright. According to the BLS, an estimated 2012-2022 employment growth of 14% is primarily being driven by the need for receptionists in healthcare settings.
Career Skills and Requirements
A high school diploma is typically the only required education needed to land a position as an optometric receptionist. Employers often give on-the-job training to those working in this occupation. That being said, receptionists need certain skills that some employers may expect job candidates to already possess. Computer skills, such as those needed to work in spreadsheet or word processing programs, are important. You'll also need to be prepared to type, manage files and prepare documents for the practice.
You need to consider whether you have the personal attributes necessary to be the one out front in the optometry office. Based on real job postings from Monster.com and Careerbuilder.com, these include:
- A professional appearance and image
- Courteous and friendly personality
- Strong oral and written communication skills
- Excellent interpersonal skills
- Ability to multi-task
- Good organizational skills
What Real Employers Look For
A common expectation among employers seeking optometric receptionists is that candidates have some work experience working in an eye care or other healthcare office setting. A combination of clerical skills and an outgoing personality tends to pop up in job listings for this career. Below are some real April 2012 job postings available that reflect what potential employers are likely looking for in a receptionist.
- A California optometry office needs a friendly, full-time receptionist who will greet clients, check patients' insurance coverage and complete general clerical duties. Although the employer will provide full training, the receptionist should have 1-2 years of experience.
- A Delaware optometry office is looking for a receptionist with experience in vision insurance. The full-time position requires extensive patient interaction and medical billing work. The receptionist needs excellent organizational skills.
- A busy private optometry practice in North Carolina is seeking a full-time receptionist to answer phones, register patients, schedule appointments, perform insurance authorizations and other office duties. Prior experience working in an eye care setting is required. Solid communication skills and a professional image are essential and the employer prefers a receptionist who has experience working with practice management software.
- A Kentucky optometry office needs a full-time receptionist who has a strong work ethic and the ability to work in a fast-paced environment. Prior experience working in a medical or optical office is preferred.
How to Maximize Your Skills
The career outlook should be brightest for those receptionists who have solid computer skills and experience working in an eye care or other healthcare setting. While earning a degree is certainly not required, getting some college education in office or medical office technology could help you stand out to employers. Community or technical colleges offer courses and certificate programs that allow you to improve skills in typing, office applications, healthcare correspondence, business communications and healthcare technology. According to the BLS, receptionists who have excellent computer skills are more likely to advance into higher positions within office settings.
Alternate Careers to Consider
Do you find yourself more interested in eye care than clerical duties? Consider working as an optometric assistant. The occupation falls under the larger category of medical assistants, which has an expected employment growth of 31% in 2010-2020, according to the BLS. Although you may still have some clerical responsibilities, you'll also work with patients under the supervision of the optometrist. Assisting optometrists and teaching patients about proper contacts lens or glasses care are among the possible duties of an assistant.
On-the-job training may be all that is necessary to work in this field, although some employers prefer to hire assistants with 1-2 years of postsecondary education. The job growth is faster in this occupation than for receptionists, but the 2011 mean annual wage is similar at $27,000, according to the BLS.
Health Information Technician
Working as a health information technician is another option. Although you would still be working in a healthcare setting, your focus would be on organizing, maintaining and reviewing patient medical records. While communication skills are still vital, the job requires interacting mostly with office and healthcare professionals rather than patients. Employers typically hire technicians that possess certification, which may require you to complete an accredited postsecondary program and an examination. Certificate and associate degree programs in health information technology are common.
The BLS reports an employment growth slightly lower for health information technicians than receptionists, but still faster than average at 21% for 2010-2020. Expect to earn a higher salary as well - technicians in 2011 earned a mean wage of about $36,000.