Ophthalmic Technician Schools

“Ophthalmic technicians are like dental hygienists, but for eyes. We work with ophthalmologists, who are medical doctors and surgeons who diagnose and treat disease and pathology of the eye.”

Lisa Maas, Ophthalmic Technician Program Chair, Triton College

Being able to see well is essential. To do so, it is sometimes necessary to use glasses or contacts. Opticians, ophthalmologists, and optometrists are trained professionals who help people with vision problems and diseases and are often assisted by an ophthalmic technician.

Ophthalmic technicians have completed training and education in patient care, eye care, eye anatomy, and lens dispensing. They are critical to the smooth running of an eye care clinic as they prepare patients for meeting with the physician by administering basic tests and taking patient health histories. In some offices, ophthalmic technicians may also assist with procedures.

There are numerous paths to entering the profession of an ophthalmic technician. A prospective professional can begin with on-the-job training or complete an accredited course with required clinical rotations. If pursuing the education path to enter the field, students complete their courses in one or two years. Some courses even include completing an associate’s degree.

Either path can lead to eligibility to sit for the International Joint Commission Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology (IJCAHPO) certified ophthalmic technician (COT) exam. Once professionals have earned the COT certificate, they can continue their work experience and education to become ophthalmic medical technologists.

Jobs for ophthalmic technicians are growing quickly. Between 2022 and 2032, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2023) anticipated a 13 percent growth in job openings for ophthalmic medical technicians, which is much higher than the national average of all professions during the same period (3 percent). This career is projected to continue growing as the United States population continues to age and the demand for eye care increases.

The BLS also has data for ophthalmic laboratory technicians. These technicians often use automated equipment to make lenses. These techs, commonly known as optical laboratory technicians, manufacture lenses for optical instruments, such as binoculars and telescopes. The BLS states that the demand for ophthalmic laboratory technicians will grow by 1 percent between 2022 and 2032.

Anyone interested in a career with growth potential and a low barrier to entry will find pursuing a career as an ophthalmic technician to be a good choice.

Meet the Expert: Lisa Maas, COT

Lisa Maas

Lisa Maas has been a certified ophthalmic technician since 1991 and worked with ophthalmologists in practice until 2020. She started teaching part-time for the Triton College ophthalmic technician program in 2006 and became the program chair in 2016. Her love for ophthalmology and being a technician shows through in her teaching, which quickly became another passion.

MedicalTechnologySchools.com: What is something you wish the public understood about ophthalmic technicians?

Maas: Ophthalmic technicians are like dental hygienists, but for eyes. We work with ophthalmologists, who are medical doctors and surgeons who diagnose and treat disease and pathology of the eye.

The ophthalmic technician interviews the patient for their medical and ocular history along with their complaints and symptoms, performs ophthalmic testing, administers ophthalmic medications, and collects data for interpretation by the ophthalmologist to assist in a diagnosis and treatment. The ophthalmic technician has a broad range of ophthalmic knowledge and mastery of ophthalmic skills.

Ophthalmic technicians do not fit glasses. We work with patients that have disease and/or pathology that is compromising their eyesight. Many systemic health problems can jeopardize vision and eye health such as autoimmune disease, diabetes, and neurological issues. Ophthalmology is considered to be a “clean” medicine for those who may be squeamish. It is a great choice for anyone wanting to have a health career but does not want to have a lot of bodily contact.

MedicalTechnologySchools.com: What advice would you give to aspiring ophthalmic technician students?

Maas: The are three core levels of certification, and I highly encourage certification. Certification establishes your high level of knowledge and skillset Internationally and increases your rate of pay.

Additionally, there are many specialty certifications once core-certified, such as ophthalmic surgical assistant, ultrasound biometrist, and scribe. All health career programs have a rigorous schedule that includes clinical rotation, but I encourage you to stick with it and persevere. There is such a shortage of ophthalmic technicians that there will be many employers fighting over you when you graduate!

Ophthalmic Medical Technician fast facts
Projected Jobs Created (2022-32)8,400
Projected Job Growth (2022-32)13 percent
Average (Mean) Salary$44,290
Low Salary (10th Percentile)$31,200
Median Salary (50th Percentile)$41,780
High Salary (90th Percentile)$59,930
Entry-Level Education Postsecondary nondegree award
Sourced from BLS 2024
Ophthalmic Laboratory Technician Fast Facts
Projected Jobs Created (2022-32) 200
Projected Job Growth (2022-32) 1 percent
Average (Mean) Salary $41,280
Low Salary (10th Percentile) $30,030
Median Salary (50th Percentile) $37,720
High Salary (90th Percentile) $55,580
Entry-Level Education On-the-job training

Degree and Certification Programs

While many ophthalmic technicians enter the field through on-the-job training, numerous programs can prepare those interested in pursuing this career. These programs are generally offered at community or technical colleges, although a few are offered at hospitals and even at Duke University. All programs require students to attend their courses in person as there are significant hands-on components and lab work.

Prospective students who want to enroll in an ophthalmic technician program will need to meet the admission requirements, which include:

  • High school diploma or GED
  • At least 18 years of age
  • English fluency (many programs require an IELTS or TOEFL score for international students)
  • Physical stamina (sometimes a doctor’s evaluation is required)
  • Current CPR certification

Some programs require prerequisite courses in math and writing prior to admission. Applicants should check with their desired program to ensure they meet all the requirements.

Below is a list of top accredited programs to consider if pursuing a career as an ophthalmic technician.

Duke University School of Medicine

Duke University School of Medicine has been offering a prestigious ophthalmic technician program for more than 30 years. Students learn how to take patient histories, prepare patients to see the doctor, and perform tests requested by the doctor. Students spend their first three months in intensive lecture courses supplemented by lab work and workshops. The remaining nine months of the program are spent in clinical rotations where students learn to apply the skills they have learned.

Upon completion, graduates receive a certificate and are prepared to pass the IJCAHPO certification exam for ophthalmic technicians.

  • Location: Durham, NC
  • Accreditation: International Council of Accreditation for Allied Ophthalmic Education Programs (ICA-AOEP); Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 12 months

Portland Community College

Portland Community College’s ophthalmic technician program is the only program in the western United States that offers intermediate-level training and is accredited by the International Council of Accreditation. This two-year course has a dedicated lab where students can learn hands-on techniques before entering a clinic.

Before completing the program, students can sit for the certified ophthalmic technician exam from the JCAHPO. Graduates of this course will earn an associate of applied science (AAS) in ophthalmic medical technology.

Since 2010, 100 percent of Portland Community College’s ophthalmic technician program students have passed their written COT certification exam. Generally admitting 24 to 28 students each fall based on a point system, this 91- to 98-credit program includes courses such as pharmacology for allied health, ocular disease, ocular pharmacology, ophthalmic office procedures, introduction to ophthalmics, ocular anatomy and physiology, and EHR in ophthalmology.

  • Location: Portland, OR
  • Accreditation: International Council of Accreditation for Allied Ophthalmic Education Programs (ICA-AOEP); Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months

Cuyahoga Community College

Cuyahoga Community College has a 16-credit certificate course on ophthalmic medical assisting for students who are part of the allied health studies program and pursuing an associate’s degree in optical technology. Many students automatically receive the certificate as part of their studies without taking additional courses.

This program combines clinical experience and academic instruction under professional supervision. It includes anatomy and physiology of the eye, an introduction to fabrication principles, ophthalmic assisting directed practice, refractometry, advanced patient care, and an introduction to patient care.

  • Location: Cleveland, OH
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Two semesters

Palm Beach State College

Palm Beach State College offers an associate in science degree program in ophthalmic medical technology, preparing students for well-paid, high-demand careers working with eye surgeons and physicians to improve and evaluate people’s vision. This four-semester program’s competency-based curriculum consists of didactic classroom experiences, hands-on optical analysis, and specialized training in vision testing. Through extensive clinical internships, students develop technical proficiency, including hands-on training in the college’s state-of-the-art medical clinic.

Offered at the Palm Beach Gardens campus, this 72-credit program includes courses such as physical and geometric optics, ophthalmic lenses, anatomy and physiology of the eye, ocular pathology and pharmacology, advanced ophthalmic procedures, refractometry, contact lens theory, and vision care.

  • Location: Lake Worth, FL
  • Accreditation: International Council of Accreditation for Allied Ophthalmic Education Programs (ICA-AOEP); Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Four semesters

Volunteer State Community College

Volunteer State Community College’s associate of applied science degree in ophthalmic technician program is a one-plus-one program comprising one year of general education courses plus one year of ophthalmic-specific technical courses. Graduates will be eligible to take the certified ophthalmic technician exam.

This 60-credit program includes courses such as medical terminology, introduction to ophthalmic technology, ocular anatomy and physiology, basic ophthalmic pharmacology, introduction to ophthalmic diseases, ophthalmic optics, ophthalmic procedures, and ocular motility among others.

  • Location: Gallatin, TN
  • Accreditation: International Council of Accreditation for Allied Ophthalmic Education Programs (ICA-AOEP); Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 12 months

Triton College

Triton College’s associate in applied science degree in ophthalmic technician program comprises 60 to 64 credits. Graduates of this program will be able to collect data for testing and treatment administration properly, interpret the patient’s present illness history to determine appropriate diagnostic testing, practice within OSHA safety regulations, safely apply proper procedures for testing, and utilize professionalism and effective communication skills to provide a complete patient history accurately.

The curriculum includes courses such as patient care introduction, medical terminology essentials, drug calculations, ocular anatomy and physiology, ophthalmic optics, ocular pharmacology, and ophthalmic procedures.

  • Location: River Grove, IL
  • Accreditation: International Council of Accreditation for Allied Ophthalmic Education Programs (ICA-AOEP); Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Five semesters

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List of Ophthalmic Technician Schools

Filter by state :
School City State Website grads
Pima Medical Institute-Denver Denver Colorado https://pmi.edu 25
Tulsa Technology Center Tulsa Oklahoma https://tulsatech.edu 24
Portland Community College Portland Oregon https://www.pcc.edu 23
Volunteer State Community College Gallatin Tennessee https://www.volstate.edu 18
Central Piedmont Community College Charlotte North Carolina https://www.cpcc.edu 14
Palm Beach State College Lake Worth Florida https://www.palmbeachstate.edu 12
Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute Hudson North Carolina https://www.cccti.edu 11
Florida State College at Jacksonville Jacksonville Florida https://www.fscj.edu 10
GateWay Community College-Central City Phoenix Arizona https://www.gatewaycc.edu/about-gateway/central-city 10
Metro Technology Centers Oklahoma City Oklahoma https://www.metrotech.edu 9
University of Puerto Rico-Medical Sciences San Juan Puerto Rico https://rcm2.rcm.upr.edu 8
Duke University Durham North Carolina https://duke.edu 5
Delgado Community College New Orleans Louisiana https://www.dcc.edu 5
Sandhills Community College Pinehurst North Carolina https://www.sandhills.edu 5
Stark State College North Canton Ohio https://www.starkstate.edu 5
Hillsborough Community College Tampa Florida https://www.hccfl.edu 4
Broward College Fort Lauderdale Florida https://www.broward.edu 3
Camden County College Blackwood New Jersey https://www.camdencc.edu 2
Cuyahoga Community College District Cleveland Ohio https://www.tri-c.edu 1
Triton College River Grove Illinois https://www.triton.edu 1
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Little Rock Arkansas https://www.uams.edu 1
School Data from IPEDS (Sourced in September, 2023)

Hybrid and Online Programs in Ophthalmic Technology

Hybrid and online programs allow students to complete their studies without attending traditional scheduled on-campus classes. Ophthalmic technician programs at universities and colleges include a hands-on component so there are no hybrid or online courses. However, students may complete approved online independent study courses and on-the-job training to become a certified ophthalmic assistant (COA) as a stepping stone to becoming a certified ophthalmic technician (COT).

Some programs afford students greater flexibility than full-time, on-campus classes. Three are:

Pima Medical Institute

Pima Medical Institute offers an ophthalmic medical technician associate degree program through on-ground and hybrid delivery methods. While the program includes online components, it requires on-ground attendance at the Denver campus and cannot be completed solely via distance education.

The program provides students with the knowledge and skills needed for work as professional entry-level ophthalmic medical technicians. This 73.5-credit program includes courses such as ocular anatomy and physiology, ocular disease, refractometry, contact lenses, ocular motility, surgical assisting, optics and advanced refractometry, ophthalmic photography and imaging, and clinical externship.

  • Location: Denver, CO
  • Accreditation: International Council of Accreditation for Allied Ophthalmic Education Programs (ICA-AOEP); Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 20 months

Georgetown University Medical Center

Georgetown University Medical Center offers a part-time evening program for students who are already certified ophthalmic assistants. The focus of this program is to prepare professionals who already have experience in this field to sit for the COT exam.

Therefore, students will attend more workshops and cover more advanced materials than the traditional 12 months in-person option. This program has no college credit, but students will be awarded a certificate from Georgetown.

  • Location: Washington, DC
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Six months
School City State Website grads
Henry Ford College Dearborn Michigan https://www.hfcc.edu 11
Lakeshore Technical College Cleveland Wisconsin https://gotoltc.edu 9
School Data from IPEDS (Sourced in September, 2023)

Core and Elective Courses in Ophthalmic Tech Programs

Ophthalmic technician program course offerings vary based on the length and intensity of the program. However, upon completion of the program, students will generally have the skills to:

  • Greet patients and collect their medical history
  • Perform ocular diagnostic tests
  • Assist doctors in completing examinations or simple procedures
  • Help fit eyewear to patients
  • Dispense eyewear according to state regulations
  • Maintain patient electronic health records
  • Communicate with patients and colleagues professionally, both verbally and in writing

While courses vary from program to program, typically required classes include:

  • Anatomy and physiology of the eye
  • Medical terminology
  • Basic ophthalmic clinical skills
  • Diagnostic procedures
  • Patient Care
  • Ocular disease
  • Visual acuity assessment

Students are generally required to complete practicums or internships as part of their studies.

An ophthalmic technician is an intermediate certification, and often, professionals in this field continue their education and training to obtain an ophthalmic medical technologist certification or advance into a related field, such as medical assistance.

Program Accreditation

Accreditation assures students, employers, and certifying agencies that the education received meets a minimum standard of content and quality. Ophthalmic technician programs are accredited by the International Council of Accreditation (ICA). They accredit two main types of programs: clinical and non-clinical. In addition to accrediting programs for ophthalmic technicians, they also accredit ophthalmic non-clinical assistance, ophthalmic tech, and ophthalmic medical technologist programs.

Career Outlook

Currently, there is a shortage of ophthalmic technicians. With an aging population, there is an increased demand for eye care services, which is only forecasted to continue as Baby Boomers grow older.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2023), openings in this profession are expected to grow 13 percent between 2022 and 2032, which far outpaces the national average of 3 percent for all occupations.

According to the BLS (May 2023), salaries for the 73,390 ophthalmic medical technicians are as follows:

  • Annual mean wage: $44,290
  • 10th percentile: $31,200
  • 25th percentile: $36,330
  • 50th percentile (median): $41,780
  • 75th percentile: $49,740
  • 90th percentile: $59,930

The highest-paying states currently are Alaska, Minnesota, Washington DC, Massachusetts, and California.

Career Facts Ophthalmic Medical Technician
Related CareersMedical assistant, lab technician, dental technician, ophthalmic clinical assistant, ophthalmic medical technologist
Common Job TitlesOphthalmic technicians and ophthalmic laboratory technicians
Technology & EquipmentDigital retinal camera, non-contact tonometer, autorefractor, optical coherence tomography, fundus photography equipment, digital medical charts, spreadsheet, and word processing software
Sourced from BLS 2024

Licensing & Certification for Ophthalmic Technicians

Aspiring certified ophthalmic technicians (COT) have two paths to certification from the International Joint Commission Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology (JCAHPO): either they can attend an ICA-accredited clinical ophthalmic technician program or they can receive on-the-job training.

The most straightforward path is education. If certification is pursued through course completion, students may sit for the test within 12 months of graduating.

Pursuing certification through on-the-job training requires prospective professionals first to obtain a certified ophthalmic assistant (COA) certification. This can be obtained through a clinical assistant course, a basic assistant course, and 500 supervised work hours.

Alternatively, candidates can complete an independent study course and 1,000 supervised work hours. Once a COA, professionals can work towards becoming a COT by completing 12 JCAHPO ‘Group A’ continuing education credits and accumulating 2,000 hours of supervised work experience.

Once complete, professionals are eligible to sit for the COT exam.

Kimmy Gustafson
Kimmy Gustafson Writer

With her passion for uncovering the latest innovations and trends, Kimmy Gustafson has provided valuable insights and has interviewed experts to provide readers with the latest information in the rapidly evolving field of medical technology since 2019. Kimmy has been a freelance writer for more than a decade, writing hundreds of articles on a wide variety of topics such as startups, nonprofits, healthcare, kiteboarding, the outdoors, and higher education. She is passionate about seeing the world and has traveled to over 27 countries. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Oregon. When not working she can be found outdoors, parenting, kiteboarding, or cooking.