Ophthalmic Technicians and Technologists

Advances in vision correction have make life better for millions of people, offering many choices in eyeglasses, contact lenses, and surgeries for those with less than perfect vision. Ophthalmology is the medical discipline that deals with disorders and diseases of the eye. Ophthalmic technicians and technologists are the skilled workers who deal with correcting the vision of people through the use of glasses and contact lenses. It is a career for the mechanically inclined, but it requires the proper training and education.

Ophthalmic technicians and technologists rarely deal with patients. Instead, they use the measurements taken by optometrists and ophthalmologists of their patientsí visual abilities to create generic and custom lenses for glasses. They use specialized equipment to cut and grind lenses and then polish them to a professional finish. These jobs are often accomplished through computers and robotic equipment, so the knowledge required for success in the field has changed over the past few decades. What used to be a craft managed with small handheld tools is now a science using the latest technology.

There are quite a few educational programs for ophthalmic technicians and technologists. Most schools offer a certificate to graduates of their ophthalmic technician programs. Candidates generally must have a high school diploma or have passed an equivalency exam in order to matriculate. A certificate program typically takes a year to complete. Courses in certificate programs are science-oriented, so candidates should have past success in math and science classes. There are course on the anatomy and physiology of the eye. There are classes on materials that are used in vision technology. There are even courses on surgical assisting to allow ophthalmic technologists the chance to work with ophthalmologists during surgery. Once graduates have been placed in a job, their education continues through extensive on-the-job training. The specific software and machines that are used at a given job differ from employer to employer.

Salaries for ophthalmic technicians and technologists are fairly good considering the amount of education required to compete for a job. Most positions require a year of study and a few months of professional training. According to the latest research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median average salary for all those working in the field is $27,970 per year. For those working for an hourly wage, like part-time ophthalmic technicians, this translates to $13.45 an hour. Wages range widely depending on factors like experience, place of employment, and geographic location. For example, the top 10 percent of earners can expect $43,220 per year. Those working in the manufacturing side of the industry make more, on average, than those working in patient care. Pay varies from state to state and even within states. The top three states for ophthalmic technician and technologist salaries are Colorado, Connecticut, and New Mexico. Cities like Denver have higher average salaries than rural areas in general.

The best way to position yourself for the top salaries in the field is to maximize your educational dollars. Choosing the right degree program and taking the long view while in school can make the difference between being in the top 10 percent or the bottom 10 percent of earners. Ophthalmic technicians who have taken advantage of learning a diverse array of skills will be better positioned to choose from a range of jobs. Those with a certificate will be desired over those without. The willingness to take on an internship or seek more educational opportunities shows a desire and ambition that can set you apart from your peers.

Last Updated: 05/22/2014