For information on what an ophthalmic technician is and does, go to the article on ophthalmic technician job description.
There are two primary pathways to certified ophthalmic medical technician (COT®) 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, ophthalmic technician, and ophthalmic technologist.
2) On-the-Job Training
When using the on-the-job training route, you must work your 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. Click here for information on becoming a certified ophthalmic assistant by the OJT method.
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.
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 train/study 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 when you have no previous experience.
Requirements for certification as an ophthalmic technician through the On-the-Job Training method:
1. You must be employed at least 2,000 hours (one-year full-time equivalent) as a COA®, under ophthalmologic supervision within 24 months (two-years) prior to submitting your application.
2. You must earn 12 JCAHPO Group A credits within the 12 months (one-year) prior to submitting your exam application.
3. You must maintain certification as a COA while pursuing COT certification.
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 $325 for the initial written exam and initial skill evaluation, $275 for the first written exam retake if you fail, and $150 for the third retake. It costs $85 to retake the skill evaluation, and it costs $85 for a practice skill evaluation.
5. You must pass the written certification exam (multiple choice) first, and then pass a skill evaluation.
Ready to get started? Click here for the step-by-step certification planner.
The ophthalmic technician certification exam is administered by the Joint Commission on Ophthalmic Technical Personnel in Ophthalmology (800-282-3937). Call them to request an application.