What is an Optometric Technology Degree?

Degree programs in optometric technology prepare students to work as optometric technicians, who assist optometrists. These technicians perform crucial eye tests that patients undergo before proceeding to examination by an optometrist. They also fit and adjust eyeglasses and educate patients on the use of contact lenses.

The curriculum includes training in eye anatomy and physiology, optical terminology, optical properties of light, patient pre-testing, frame and lens selection and dispensing, operating and sterilizing optical diagnostic equipment, health insurance billing processes, and electronic health records. Clinical practicums at optometry facilities are also an integral part of the curriculum.

Program Options

Diploma in Optometric Technology – Six Month to One Year Duration
Associate Degree in Optometric Technology – Two Year Duration
Diploma and associate programs in optometric technology are offered by technical and vocational schools and community colleges. Typically, both programs have a practicum component. The associate curriculum includes general education courses in college-level math and writing, as well as a more extensive clinical practicum component.

Here is a snapshot of the core courses in optometric technology:

• Ocular Anatomy and Physiology – form and function of the human eye, use of diagnostic pharmaceutical agents, optometric terminology, understanding prescriptions
• Ophthalmic Pre-Testing – study and practice of pre-testing, visual acuity, color vision, pupil evaluation, depth perception, specialized testing such as keratometry (measurement of the curvature of the cornea) and blood pressure
• Human Relations – communication skills, ethical and legal responsibilities, stress management
• Fundamental Optical Concepts – properties of light, function of a lens in correcting vision, math skills needed in vision care, physiology of vision, introduction to neutralization and verification of lens powers – spherical, cylindrical, and prism lenses
• Fundamental of Optical Dispensing – parts and types of frames, measurements of frames and lenses, alignment of frames, inserting and removing lenses, dispensing of eyewear and frame repairs
• Optical Dispensing-Advanced – mastering alignment and adjustment of eyewear, lens materials, multifocal lenses, lens tints
• Ophthalmic Specialty Testing – subjective refraction, visual field testing, tonometry (measurement of the pressure inside the eye), basics of orthoptics (non-surgical treatment of visual disorders), eye medications, eye patching, lab sessions in patient instruction and assistance
• Contact Lenses – technical aspects of operating a clinical contact lens practice, lens verification, patient education
• Patient Relations and Practice Management – optometry office management, appointments management, record keeping, insurance claim processing
• Clinical Practicum – real-word experience in an optometry setting

Degrees Similar to Optometric Technology

Ophthalmic Technician
Ophthalmic technician education programs prepare students to work in support roles with ophthalmologists, who are medical doctors trained to treat diseases of the eye, prescribe medications, and perform eye surgery.

Optometry
The optometry degree is a doctoral degree. After earning a bachelor’s and completing required courses in biology, chemistry, physiology, and calculus, students apply to dental school. There, they study vision science, neuroanatomy, ocular anatomy, and eye abnormalities and diseases before focusing on lab and supervised clinical work.

Pre-Dentistry
There is no distinct pre-dentistry degree. ‘Pre-dentistry’ or is merely a term that students planning to go to dental school use to describe their undergraduate studies. In fact, aspiring dentists enter dental school having earned many different bachelor’s degrees. A science program such as biology or chemistry is certainly a common choice, but it is not mandatory. In other words, a pre-dental student can be a psychology major, a statistics major, or a Spanish major. The key for students is to incorporate into their studies the classes needed to apply to dental school.

Pre-Medicine
There is no distinct pre-medicine degree. ‘Pre-medicine’ or ‘pre-med’ is merely a term that students planning to go to medical school use to describe their undergraduate studies. In fact, aspiring doctors enter med school having earned many different bachelor’s degrees. A science program such as biology or chemistry is certainly a common choice, but it is not mandatory. In other words, a pre-med student can be a psychology major, a statistics major, or a Spanish major. The key for students is to incorporate into their studies the classes needed to apply to medical school.

Skills You'll Learn

In addition to their specific technical skills, optometric technology grads leave their studies with valuable transferable skills:

• Attention to detail – patients’ safety depends on the ability of optometric technicians to closely follow rules and protocols
• Empathy and interpersonal skills – establishing rapport with patients, especially those who are anxious, is key
• Manual dexterity and accuracy - the work of an optometric technician is precise work
• Organization and administrative skills – these skills are essential in completing patient tests for the optometrist and in collecting and recording patient information
• Teamwork and communication skills – optometric technicians must be effective communicators because they work closely with optometrists, who provide direct supervision and with patients, who require clear instructions when undergoing different eye tests
• Technology skills – optometric technology students learn how to use complex equipment

What Can You Do with an Optometric Technology Degree?

Because of the very specific nature of their degree, optometric technicians typically work directly in the optometry field. Their employment options include:

• Private Optometry Practices
• Optometry Laboratories
• Optometry Schools
• Eyewear Stores / Department Stores with an Eyewear Department

Some of the titles held by optometric technicians are:

• Optometric Technician / Optometric Assistant – preliminary testing, dispensing of glasses and contact lenses, office administration
• Contact Lens Technician – specializing in ordering, verifying, and dispensing of contact lenses
• Dispensing Optician – specializing in fitting and dispensing of eyewear

Graduates in the field who seek employment in other sectors may find opportunities as assistants in healthcare administration.

Salary

Find out what graduates typically earn.

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