Certified Ophthalmic Assistant Job Description

Certified ophthalmic assistants work closely with ophthalmologists, assisting them with procedures, performing ocular measurements and testing eye functions, and gathering medical records. Certified ophthalmic assistants, or COAs, are involved with providing eye care advice to patients and ensuring that patient records are up to date. This is typically a full-time job, and takes place in a number of settings, including hospitals, clinics, or with private ophthalmologists. Certified ophthalmic assistants should be organized and possess great attention to detail, enjoy working with people, and have basic computer competencies.


Certified Ophthalmic Assistant Duties and Responsibilities

The type of organization a certified ophthalmic assistant works for will determine the exact roles and responsibilities. Based on job listings we analyzed, a certified ophthalmic assistant’s duties typically involve:

Gathering Medical Records

Certified ophthalmic assistants prepare medical records for each appointment and gather patient information, as well as update these records after each appointment.

Taking Ocular Measurements

Using medical equipment, certified ophthalmic assistants take ocular measurements, both anatomical and functional, which can be used to determine the treatment or medication required.

Providing Information to Patients

Certified ophthalmic assistants provide contact lens information and eye care advice to patients, as well as inform them of any procedures or measurements that will be carried out.

Cleaning Ophthalmic Equipment

Health and safety regulations are vital in a medical setting, so certified ophthalmic assistants are responsible for cleaning ophthalmic instruments and equipment after each use, and making sure work areas are kept clean and tidy.

Assisting with Basic Procedures

Certified ophthalmic assistants help ophthalmologists with basic procedures, including assisting with the procedure itself, preparing the equipment beforehand, and ensuring that the ophthalmologist has the correct medical records for each patient.


Certified Ophthalmic Assistant Skills and Qualifications

Certified ophthalmic assistants should be organized and focused, have the dexterity to use precision tools and equipment, and possess great interpersonal skills to work effectively as part of a team. Typically, employers will require a high school diploma, as well as the following abilities:

  • Communication skills – COAs usually work as part of a team, so it’s important that they have good communication and interpersonal skills
  • Organizational skills – certified ophthalmic assistants need to be organized and able to manage their time effectively in order to carry out a variety of duties and to ensure that patient information is updated accurately
  • Computer literacy – COAs need to be computer literate in order to update records and databases, and to use computerized equipment for ocular measurements
  • Listening skills – it’s important that COAs can follow instructions clearly and precisely, so good listening skills are important
  • Dexterity – COAs work with precise tools and equipment, so they need to have the dexterity to use these items correctly and safely


Certified Ophthalmic Assistant Education and Training

The minimum requirement to become a certified ophthalmic assistant is a high school diploma, although employers prefer candidates who have completed a program in ophthalmic medical assisting at college or university. Entry-level COAs typically receive on-the-job training from experienced colleagues. The Commission on Accreditation of Ophthalmic Medical Programs (CoA-OMP) accredits ophthalmology assistant programs, which have varying curricula but generally offer an overview of ocular anatomy, terminology, diagnostic procedures, clinical procedures, and much more. Ophthalmic assistant training programs can take up to a year to complete, although there are some programs available which are shorter in duration.


Certified Ophthalmic Assistant Salary and Outlook

The median annual salary for certified ophthalmic assistants is nearly $37,000, according to PayScale. Certified ophthalmic assistants in the 10th percentile earn around $27,000 annually, while the highest paid earn close to $50,000 a year. Companies paying the higher end of this pay scale include bonuses of up to $2,000, and profit sharing opportunities of up to $3,000. Around 75% of companies provide medical and dental cover as part of their benefits package. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the growth rate for this sector is expected to grow by 13 percent through 2026.


Helpful Resources

We’ve collected some of the best resources to help you learn more about developing a career as a certified ophthalmic assistant.

Certified Ophthalmic Assistant Study Guide – this book is designed to help those studying to become a certified ophthalmic assistant, and includes a self-assessment section with over 300 multiple-choice questions and a practice exam with 100 additional questions. The book covers a wide range of topics, from lensometry to medical ethics to legal issues.

Ophthalmology and Optometry Network – a group for anyone in the optometry and ophthalmology field, this LinkedIn group has over 21,000 members. For COAs in training, or those who have just started working in the industry, groups like this are a great way to network with more experienced professionals, learn new skills and ask questions, and to stay up to date with developments in the industry.

The Ophthalmic Assistant: A Text for Allied and Associated Ophthalmic Personnel – a fantastic resource for ocular diseases, surgical procedures, medications, equipment, and much more. This book provides a great introduction to a variety of topics for ophthalmic assistants and others working in ocular care,.

EyeSmart – a comprehensive website for up-to-date eye health information, this site is provided by the American Academy of Ophthalmology and provides ophthalmologist-reviewed information about news, tips, diseases, and treatments, which can help COAs in training become more familiar with terminology, medications, and disease advice.


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