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Optometric Assistant Job Description, Career as an Optometric Assistant, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: High school

Salary: $12,000 to $30,000 per year

Employment Outlook: Excellent

Definition and Nature of the Work

Optometric assistants perform routine tasks in optometrists' offices. Their work enables optometrists to devote their time to patient care that requires specialized training. Optometric assistants do clerical work, such as bookkeeping and scheduling appointments. They also help the optometrist during eye examinations.

Optometrists give their patients eye examinations for vision, color blindness, and eye pressure. When the tests are completed, an optometrist can prescribe the necessary eyeglasses for the patient. Optometric assistants often prepare patients for the tests. They may put drops in patients' eyes or direct and seat patients at eye-testing machines.

Assistants may explain eye exercises to patients or teach them how to use contact lenses. In some offices, optometric assistants help people choose the frames for their glasses. When the eyeglasses are made, optometric assistants adjust them for a proper fit.

Some assistants work in laboratories that fill prescriptions for eyeglasses. They put lenses into frames or repair broken frames. Most optometric assistants work in private offices. Some work in health clinics or for government agencies. Others are employed by companies that make optical instruments.

Education and Training Requirements

Optometric assistants should have a high school diploma or its equivalent. Most are trained on the job. Optometrists prefer applicants who are accurate and able to work well with delicate and breakable tools and materials.

There are also formal training programs for this work. Some technical schools, community colleges, and colleges of optometry offer one-year programs. Training for optometric assistants generally includes secretarial and office skills as well as medical procedures. The Paraoptometric Section of the American Optometric Association certifies optometric assistants who pass their written exams.

Getting the Job

If you attend a training program, your school placement office can give you job information. If you do not have training, contact optometrists in your community and ask about on-the-job training. To get a government job, apply to take the necessary civil service test. State and private employment offices can also provide information about employment opportunities. You should also check newspaper want ads and job banks on the Internet for listings.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

An assistant may train with an optometrist who specializes in a field such as contact lenses. Learning a specialty will enable the assistant to get a better-paying job.

The employment outlook is excellent through the year 2010. Job openings will be created by the coverage of eye care services through public and private insurance programs and the new, more economical eye care chains. Also, the growth of the older population is certain to assure the need for qualified optometric assistants. Opportunities will be best for people who have completed a formal training program.

Working Conditions

Most optometric assistants work in modern, well-lighted offices and laboratories. Offices can be very busy at times. However, the work area is usually quiet and clean. Optometric assistants work under the direct supervision of an optometrist. They must enjoy working with people because they usually have a lot of contact with patients. Work hours vary, but assistants typically work about forty hours a week. They may be required to work on evenings and Saturdays. Many optometric assistants work part time.

Where to Go for More Information

American Optometric Association
243 N. Lindbergh Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63141-7851
(314) 991-4100

Earnings and Benefits

According to a 2002 American Optometric Association survey, annual salaries for optometric assistants ranged from less than $12,000 to more than $30,000. More than half of survey respondents reported annual salaries above $20,000. Benefits generally include paid holidays and vacations and health insurance.

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