Online Optical or Optometric Assistant Degrees
The medical world has numerous areas of study, and one of the fastest growing is that of optometry. This field is expected to grow by more than thirty five percent in demand over the coming years, far above the national average. Salary ranges are average for the nation but usually the job comes with many different benefits as well. Becoming an optometrist assistant involves no more than two years of education and will allow one to become an assistant in an optometry office, eye clinics, and other facilities. It's essentially a type of medical assistant position and in most cases graduates will manage clerical and administrative duties within the office. Many will also perform various types of clinical duties if they meet the state requirements for doing so.
Optometrist assistants usually handle a lot of different tasks within an office. They'll schedule appointments, answer phones, handle insurance coding, billing, maintain patient records, and more. They usually help with cleaning and arranging of equipment and in preparation of a procedure. Those who qualify to perform clinical duty will also conduct different tests, record or measure a patient's vision, test eye function, help patients learn more about using contact lenses, and assist optometrists during procedures.
In many cases community colleges, tech schools, and trade schools will all have different optometric assistant programs available. In many cases coursework can be completed online and then clinical duty will take place in a vision center or other medical facility. Students planning on enrolling in these programs need to be solid multi-taskers and have strong communication and organizational skills. Classes will usually focus on the administrative and clerical nature of the job first and then move into the clinical area of study. As mentioned above, earning a medical assistant degree is often the path one may take if no optometric assistant degree programs can be found. After earning a medical assistant degree students can then land a job in a vision center and receive on the job training.
Online Optometric Assistant Degree Programs Available
- Undergraduate/Graduate Certificate: 1-2 years to complete
- Associate Degree: 2 years to complete
An online optometric assistant degree program is usually designed to be completed at the certificate level. This certificate program teaches students not only the basics behind things like medical terminology, billing, and more, but also focuses on the various specialized areas of study that apply to the optometry field.
An associate's degree program is often similar to the medical assistant program offered by community colleges and in many cases students earn this degree and then complete on the job training in an optometry office to complete their education since the roles for both jobs are very similar. The associate's program is the right call for those planning on becoming an optometry technician at a later date and in many cases students complete the technician program and then assume an entry level role as an assistant. In all cases students may be required to complete hands on clinical training in labs, doctor's offices, and other settings.
Basic Admission Requirements
In order to qualify for online optical or optometric assistant programs students generally need to have completed high school or possess a GED. In some cases there may be requirements for admission such as things like high school courses in medical or science related fields, but in most cases only a high school degree will be required.
It's important to mention again that in some cases earning a medical assistant degree and then taking a job at an optometrist office will allow for on the job training. In this case the requirements for a medical assistant degree will be similar to those listed above.
Traditional and Online Optometric Assistant Degrees Key Differences
The key differences between online or traditional optometric assistant degrees are mainly the method of study used to earn the degree. Those who enroll in the program online will be able to complete their classes when it is convenient for them. Traditional courses will involve classroom based lessons. In both cases students will usually have to complete clinic hours doing hands on training, and in either scenario they'll be able to complete this training at local facilities that work with colleges and universities.
Tuition costs vary significantly depending on the type of degree program being enrolled in as well as on the school itself. Costs can range from two to twelve thousand dollars per year in most cases, but three to four thousand dollars each year is a good average. There are plenty of financial aid and financing options available to choose from, and students should have little to no trouble finding the perfect one for their needs.
It's absolutely vital that students enroll in a program that is fully accredited. Accreditation is required in order to sit for certification by the Certified Paraoptometric Technician exam, and signifies that a program includes all of the required areas of study and meets the highest levels of excellence within them. It's worth noting that some states may not require optometric assistants to become certified in order to gain employment, but in most cases employers will give a strong preference to those who do carry accreditation. The American Optometric Association lists all of the accredited programs on its website.
Finding the Right Degree
Finding the right degree begins with locating an accredited program, but from there the decision will be based more on personal preference and location. Finding a program that has a quality clinical program nearby is important so that one can complete their hands-on training without having to travel too far. It's also important to make sure that the school actually offers the type of program that one wants to enroll in and to ensure that you'll be able to enroll in an online program if you desire. And again, those deciding to earn a medical assistant degree and then seek on the job training will want to make sure that their nearby employers actually do offer that level of training. If these points are remembered, finding the right degree should be easy to do.