Ophthalmic Assistant

Certified Ophthalmic Assistant

It is not required of ophthalmic assistants to become certified, but it certainly does have more advantages to be so. Becoming a certified ophthalmic assistant is similar to having a certificate from an academic program that states the individual has passed an exam testing their skills and competence. In fact, a license tells even more because ophthalmic assistants must complete continuing education credits to maintain their certification every three years. This shows professionalism and growth that many employers like in candidates for their openings.

COA Certification Advantages

First let’s examine some of the advantages of becoming certified. Many employers, in their ads for employment will state that they are specifically looking for certified ophthalmic assistants, thus cutting out a number of applicants. Employers that do not state it directly will still mention the importance of certification in the “Preferred” or “Skills that would be a plus” sections, and when it comes to choosing between two people, one with certification and one without, it may be the deciding factor. The next advantage is personal growth and professionalism. Not all professions have certification, and those that do, especially the ones with accreditation standards, tend to have professional groups that help individuals develop, make connections, and continue towards their goals. Certified ophthalmic assistants can get further certification to become corporate certified ophthalmic assistants, certified ophthalmic technicians, or certified ophthalmic medical technologists.

Ophthalmic Assistant Certification

Ophthalmic assistants interested in certification will need to meet the requirements set by the Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology (JCAHPO®), which certifies ophthalmic medical personnel, and also requires the passing of an exam. Those that receive certification will need to attain 18 continuing education credits within the three year period for renewal. Certification also requires a form of education, independent study, formal clinical, or academic program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Ophthalmic Medical Programs (CoA-OMP). The independent study option allows for diversity, because academic programs are not offered in many areas and allow for self learning on the individual’s own time.

COA Certification Requirements

There are three methods to become eligible to take the test for certification of ophthalmic assistants. The three methods are listed below. There are time frame requirements for each component. For example, an academic program may need to be completed within 12 months prior to submitting your application. This is shown in the parentheses next to each item, which is scaled in months.

  • Graduation from formal clinical training program
    • Graduate from a CoA-OMP accredited Clinical Ophthalmic Assistant program (12)
    • If not within 12 months, obtain 18 JCAHPO Group A credits, for each year following graduation.
  • Graduate from training program with work experience
    • Graduate from a CoA-OMP accredited Ophthalmic Assistant program (12)
    • If not within 12 months, obtain 18 JCAHPO Group A credits, for each year following graduation.
    • 500 hours of work under ophthalmologic supervision (12)
  • Complete independent course and work experience
    • High school graduate or equivalent status
    • Completion of CoA-OMP approved independent study course (36)
    • If not within 36 months, obtain 18 JCAHPO Group A credits, for each year following completion.

Certified Ophthalmic Assistant Exam

The exam for certification consists of 200 scored multiple choice questions with a 3 hour time frame. The certification exam will cover many aspects related to becoming a successful ophthalmic assistant. As of 2009, the current outline for the test is listed in the table below and a more complete breakdown of subject areas can be found on the website.

Content Area & % of exam
1 History Taking 3%
2 Pupillary Assessment 3%
3 Equipment Maintenance and Repair 4%
4 Lensometry 3%
5 Keratometry 3%
6 Medical Ethics, Legal and Regulatory Issues 5%
7 Microbiology 2%
8 Pharmacology 8%
9 Ocular Motility 5%
10 In-office Minor Surgical Procedures 5%
11 Ophthalmic Patient Services and Education 13%
12 Ophthalmic Imaging 7%
13 Refractometry 6%
14 Spectacle Skills 3%
15 Supplemental Skills 10%
16 Tonometry 5%
17 Visual Assessment 6%
18 Visual Fields 6%
19 Surgical Assisting in ASC or Hospital-Based OR 3%


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