Think of the optometric assistant as the glue that holds the eye doctor's office together. In a smaller offices, she is responsible for everything from intake screenings and checking you in, to making sure your frames fit properly. She also does a half-dozen things that patients never see, or even consider. Like other medical assistants, she is an essential player in the office.
You know your optometric assistant as the woman who walks you back to the exam room and who runs the preliminary tests before the ophthalmologist or optometrist takes over. She tests for color blindness, depth perception, near and far vision -- called acuity -- and screens patients for macular health. The puff of air shot into your eye at every appointment? You can thank your OA for that. She also teaches contact lens and glasses care, and in some offices helps patients choose frames, adjusts them to fit and makes minor repairs.
Outside the exam room, the OA is often behind the front counter to check-in patients and handle administrative tasks such as billing, scheduling appointments and maintaining medical records, patient histories and other files. A blend of equally strong people and organizational skills are key. Expect to inventory and order supplies and keep all optometric equipment and instruments clean and ready for use. Much of the unseen work that keeps your eye doctor's office running falls to the optometric assistant.
Many optometric assistants get their schooling on the job. Though you can be hired as an entry-level OA with as little as a high school diploma, the formal training and certification programs are offered at some technical schools and two-year colleges may make you a more appealing job candidate. The American Optometric Association website has a list of accredited schools and technical training programs. The association also offers its own certification course.
Job Outlook and Pay
Job growth for all medical assistants is expected to be a strong 31 percent through 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's more than twice the projected job growth rate for all professions, 14 percent, in that time. The agency reported a median wage of $28,850 for medical assistants in 2010, with the top 10 percent earning more than $40,000 annually.
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