The three levels of technical personnel in ophthalmology are: ophthalmic assistants (entry), ophthalmic technicians (intermediate), and ophthalmic technologists (advanced).  All three levels of personnel work under the supervision and direction of an ophthalmologist, a physician who specializes in eye care. They are trained to take medical histories, administer eye medications, instruct the patient in care and use of corrective lenses, perform all the ophthalmologic tests necessary for preliminary and highly specific eye exams, assist in ophthalmic surgery, and maintain ophthalmic surgical instruments, as well as office equipment. Ophthalmic technologists are trained for additional duties that include taking ophthalmic photographs, using ultrasound, and providing instruction and supervision to other ophthalmic personnel.  Ophthalmic technologists are expected to perform at a higher level of expertise than assistant/technicians and to exercise considerable clinical technical judgment. 


Training generally takes from six months to one year for ophthalmic assistants, one year for ophthalmic technicians, and two years for technologists.  Graduates of accredited programs are eligible to take the national certifying examination at the approved levels.

Three levels of voluntary certification are available for ophthalmic assistants/technicians/technologists and may be obtained from the Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology.


Ophthalmic assistants/technicians/technologists are primarily employed by ophthalmologists and may work with patients in a setting for which the ophthalmologist is responsible.  They may work in medical institutions or private offices.


The job outlook for each of these professions is very good, with the need for competent technical personnel increasing.  The supply of ophthalmic medical assistants is currently insufficient for the demand.  According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the need for trained professionals will continue to increase as the population ages.  Technological advances in diagnostic equipment increases the demand for qualified professionals.