To become an optometric technician, a person must complete a high-school-level education and go on to get technician training on-the-job or via a formal training program. Optometric technicians typically need at least two years of training before they can move on to certification, which is preferred by the majority of optometrists. Following certification, an optometric technician can apply to the visual health office of his choice for employment.
Individuals who want to become an optometric technician should start out by getting their high school diploma or graduate equivalency degree (GED). This is the minimum requirement to enter most optometric technician programs. Those who know they want to follow this career path early on can prepare by taking courses such as math, computers, biology, anatomy, health, chemistry and general science classes. If a person's school offers options such as medical assisting or clerical work, those classes should be taken as well.
Following receipt of a high school diploma or GED, the next step to become an optometric technician is to decide whether to get on-the-job training or to enter a formal training program. People who opt for on-the-job training typically do so because of a scarcity of para-optometric programs in their area. Formal training programs are preferable because the programs award diplomas or associate degrees that show a specific level of competency, which future employers often prefer. If an individual selects formal training, he can expect a minimum of two years of study — programs that are only one year are designed for optometric assistants, which is a slightly less-advanced position.
In formal training programs, courses to help someone become an optometric technician commonly included are optometric procedures, optical devices, physiology of the eye and anatomy. Instrumentation, optometric dispensing, optical first aid and lens finishing are additional examples. These courses not only qualify the technician for a diploma or degree, but also prepare the technician for certification.
Certification is voluntary for someone who wants to become an optometric technician, but most optometrists prefer their technicians to be certified. In the United States, an optometric technician applies for certification through organizations such as the National Council on Paraoptometric Certification, American Board of Opticianry (ABO) and the American Optometric Association, Paraoptometric Division. These agencies typically offer certification through a written competency exam.
Following education and certification, the final steps to become an optometric technician are updating a resume and formally applying for open technician positions. In some cases, it is possible for a candidate to utilize placement services provided by their training program. Most technicians apply directly to the offices at which they wish to work.