For information on what an ophthalmic assistant is and does, go to the article on ophthalmic assistant job description.

There are two pathways to certified ophthalmic medical assistant (COA®) certification:

1) Accredited Schools and Training Programs

The are two advantages to attending a school or training program for ophthalmic medical personnel. One advantage is that you can become a technician or a technologist without working your way through the lower level(s) of certification. The other advantage is that it is a structured program with a defined timeline.  The main disadvantages are that it costs money and time, and there may not be a program near to where you live.  Another disadvantage is that certification is not guaranteed. The program graduate must still take the certification exam in order to become certified.

Click here for a listing of schools and training programs for ophthalmic assistant.

2) On-the-Job Training

The primary advantage of the OJT method is that you are being paid while you learn and advance.  A disadvantage is that there is usually a loose structure to the training program and you must be a "self-starter" in terms of learning.  Another disadvantage is that it is generally more difficult to get an entry level ophthalmic assistant job this way.  It is often a "catch-22" situation.  You can't get an ophthalmic assistant job unless you are experienced, and you can't get experience unless you have a job.  The OJT OMP must work his/her way through the levels of certification.  You can't become a COT® (technician) unless you have worked as a COA® for one year.  You can't become a COMT® (technologist) until you have worked as a COT® for three years.


Many OMPs get their start in the field by taking a job in an ophthalmology office as a receptionist or in some other "office" job.  The receptionist proves to be a good employee, and then the receptionist is trained to be an ophthalmic assistant when a job opens up.  The new assistant can advance in the field by becoming a certified assistant and then training/studying to become a certified technician and then a certified technologist, all while working in the field and being paid. Click here for help getting started in the technical field of ophthalmology.


Requirements for certification through the On-the-Job Training method:


1. You must have a high school diploma or equivalency.

2. You must complete an independent study course. It must be completed within 36 months of submitting your application for examination. If it has been more than 36 months, you must repeat the course or submit 18 CE credits for each year beyond the 36 months.

3. You must have a minimum amount of work experience. You must have worked for at least 1000 hours (about 6 months full time) under the supervision of an ophthalmologist in the 12 months prior to application.

4. You must complete an application process for the exam. An ophthalmologist must sign your application verifying that you meet the requirements. The examination is multiple choice. The cost is $300 for the initial exam, $250 for the first retake if you fail, and $150 for the third retake.

5. You must pass the certification exam.


Ready to get started? Go to the certification planner.


The ophthalmic assistant certification exam is administered by the Joint Commission on Ophthalmic Technical Personnel in Ophthalmology (800-282-3937). Call them for a certification exam application.