Ophthalmic Assistant vs. Ophthalmic Technician: Break Down The Differences

Ophthalmic Assistant vs. Ophthalmic Technician
Ophthalmic Assistant vs. Ophthalmic Technician

Many physicians want to hire assistants who can support them to assure that they can focus on patients and run their offices properly. Ophthalmic Assistants and Ophthalmic Technicians both assist ophthalmologists but they have different certification requirements and job duties. In this article, we discuss the differences and similarities between ophthalmic assistants and technicians, helping you make the right educated decision for you.

Job Description

Ophthalmic Assistant

Ophthalmic Assistant
Ophthalmic Assistant

An ophthalmic assistant is an entry-level ophthalmology professional. They work with an ophthalmologist or a medical doctor who specializes in healing and performing surgery on patients with eye-related issues like poor vision, eye diseases, and other eye irregularities. 

Ophthalmic assistants help the ophthalmologist perform some common tasks such as prepare patients for doctor’s visits, perform eye exams, prescribe eyeglasses, and assist patients with their eye medications.

Ophthalmic Technician

Ophthalmic Technician
Ophthalmic Technician

An ophthalmic technician is a mid-level ophthalmology professional. They perform all the same duties as an assistant, but they get additional training and certification allowing them to practice advanced testing and operate more medical tools/ machinery than ophthalmic assistants. Becoming an ophthalmic assistant is also a strong foundation for those who want to pursue ophthalmic technician.

Required Certification

A high school diploma or a GED equivalent is the minimum education requirement for both ophthalmic assistants and technicians. However, they also attend a two-year ophthalmic technician program from accredited institutions to help them during their certification process.

Both an ophthalmic assistant or technician don’t require certification, but they can obtain it to enhance job opportunities. 

Required Certification
Required Certification

A popular certification for assistants is the Certified Ophthalmic Assistant (COA) certification. For ophthalmic technicians, you can get the Certified Ophthalmic Technician (COT). Both certifications have to be renewed every three years and follow the same basic path including 2 primary requirements

  • The first requirement is achieving an accredited training and education program. It typically lasts up to one year for an assistant and up to two years for a technician.
  • The second requirement is passing a certification exam.

You can also earn on-the-job training through internships which require 1,000 hours of on-the-job training for ophthalmic assistants and 2,000 hours work as an assistant for those who want to become ophthalmic technicians. Ophthalmic technicians also have to earn 12 credits from the Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology (JCAHPO).

Job Responsibilities

Job Responsibilities
Job Responsibilities

Both ophthalmic assistants and technicians help an ophthalmologist complete daily duties including

  • Record patient information
  • Take basic ocular measurements
  • Administer medication
  • Perform basic eye exams
  • Educate patients about medication and glasses tests
  • Prepare observation rooms
  • Assist the ophthalmologist during procedures 
  • Apply bandages to eyes after injuries or operations

Ophthalmic technicians have advanced certification, allowing to perform other clinical tasks like

Perform advanced eye exams and measurements

  • Take patients’ vitals
  • Administer eye drops to dilate patients’ pupils
  • Preparing operating rooms for surgery like sterilizing and checking equipment
  • Maintain and troubleshoot equipment
  • Perform office responsibilities

Necessary Skills

Necessary Skills
Necessary Skills

Ophthalmic assistants and technicians need to have skills such as

  • Friendly attitude
  • Attention to detail
  • Effective communication
  • Basic knowledge of ocular medicine
  • Strict adherence to medical laws and regulation

Additionally, ophthalmic technicians must improve some advanced to complete their duties like

  • Precise understanding of ocular medicine
  • Steady hands for applying eye drops and other procedures
  • Strong knowledge of ocular medical equipment and operating room procedures

Upward Mobility

Ophthalmic assistants and technicians have the ability for learning new skills and certifying for a higher position. However, technicians have good upward mobility and can move their careers into ophthalmic technologists.

Salary Range

According to the BLS, Ophthalmic assistants earn an average of $32,307 per year while Ophthalmic technicians often get an average of $41,048 per year (little more than assistants) because they have more advanced training and certification.


To sum up, ophthalmic assistants and technicians have the same basic training and education, however, there are also certain differences between the two careers. Hope this article can help you to decide which job might work best for you.