In the U.S., more women wear glasses than men, with nearly 50 percent of women wearing glasses compared to 42 percent of men, according to Glasses Crafter and data from the Vision Council of America. Optometric assistants help the 75 percent of Americans who need vision correction by performing basic optometry procedures. Also called paraoptemetric assistants, these right-hand women (and men) can earn a certification from the American Optometry Association and the Commission on Paraoptemetric Certification.
One of four types of certifications from the AOA and CPC, the Certified Paraoptometric designation allows an assistant to work up front in an optometrist's office in an administrative role. CPOs answer phones, make appointments, file insurance claims, keep records and order office supplies. Before taking the certification exam, a candidate must hold a high school diploma and have six months’ experience in the eye care field. The 100-question exam covers basic ophthalmic science, clinical procedures and professional issues. CPO candidates wanting a heads up on the test material can check out the AOA’s CPO Handbook with sample test questions.
Certified Paraoptometric Assistant
The next step up from the CPO designation is the Certified Paraoptometric Assistant certification, which shows that the assistant has the skills needed to work alongside the optometrist. CPOAs record patient histories, take eye measurements and do glaucoma and blood pressure tests. A CPOA must have earned a CPO designation and have worked as a CPO for six months before sitting for the CPOA certification exam. The 200 multiple-choice exam covers advanced ophthalmic techniques and concepts like ocular anatomy and physiology, refractive status and binocularity and special procedures. Candidates for the CPOA exam can also get a sneak peak at exam questions through the AOA Handbook.
Certified Paraoptometric Technician
The highest level of certification, the Certified Paraoptometric Technician designation, prepares assistants for more job responsibilities. A CPOT can do everything a CPO and CPOA can as well as order prescription glasses, adjust contact lenses, photograph the inside of the eye and and give the dreaded eye dilation drops. CPOTs must start by earning a CPOA certification and work for at least six months with that certification. The two-part certification exam for CPOTs consists of a 225-question written exam and a practical exam. During the practical exam, applicants take a patient's case history; take blood pressure readings, do tonometry and dilation tests, perform a contact lens fitting, and take eye measurements and readings.
Paraoptometric Coding Certification
The fourth optometric assistant certification, the Paraoptometric Coding certification, helps prepare the assistant to work as a medical coder in an optometrist's office. A CPOC ensures that all patient records, orders and prescriptions are correct so that insurance claims go through properly. The CPOC exam is open-book and has 125 questions. The exam tests a candidate's knowledge of medical terminology, medical codes, medical records, claim filing and compliance.
- Glasses Crafter: What Percentage of the Population Wears Glasses?
- American Optometry Association: Certified Paraoptometric
- American Optometry Association: Certified Paraoptometric Assistant
- American Optometry Association: Certified Paraoptometric Technician
- American Optometry Association: Certified Paraoptometric Coding
Lindsey Thompson began her writing career in 2001. Her work has been published in the Cincinnati Art Museum's "Member Magazine" and "The Ohio Journalist." You'll also find her work on websites like Airbnb, Chron.com, and USAToday.com. Thompson holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University.