Career in Eye Care Practical Compared to Rising Tuition Costs

In one-fourth the time it takes to obtain a bachelor degree, an individual can begin working and become certified as an ophthalmic assistant.

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With an estimated need for an additional 6,000 ophthalmic technicians in the U.S., a career in eye care is ideal for anyone who is self-motivated, has a desire to help people, and wants to make a difference.

(Vocus) December 16, 2009

According to "Measuring Up 2008: The National Report Card on Higher Education" by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, “increases in college tuition have outpaced price increases in other sectors of the economy.”¹ Since 1982, the national price of college has risen nearly 450% in current dollar prices. The deterioration of college affordability is forcing students and future professionals to get smarter about the educational and training pathways they choose. The burden of long-term loans make employment as an eye care professional a quick and an inexpensive alternative route to career success.

Certified ophthalmic medical personnel (OMP) play a crucial role in the delivery of quality care in the allied health profession. OMP work alongside ophthalmologists and assist in areas such as surgery, patient education, and compliance. In eye care, the Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology (JCAHPO) is the leading international provider of certification and continuing education to ophthalmic personnel. JCAHPO’s mission is to enhance the quality and availability of ophthalmic patient care by promoting the value of qualified allied health personnel and by providing certification and education. The organization currently has nearly 18,000 certificants from around the world.

JCAHPO President William H. Ehlers, MD observes the value of pursuing a career in the ophthalmic allied health profession.

“At many institutions, the cost of higher education is so expensive that it becomes a poor investment in an individual’s future. Candidates who want a career in an exciting area of the health care industry can pursue continuing education opportunities and certification as an eye care professional,” adds Ehlers.

Continuing education for allied health is emerging as a practical alternative to the mounting costs of formal institutional education. Trends over the past several decades are startling. Most alarming is that the median household income has risen only 18% since the late seventies, creating a huge gap between what families are making and the cost of today’s college education.²

In one-fourth the time it takes to obtain a bachelor degree, an individual can begin working and become certified as an ophthalmic assistant. The freedom to learn at one’s own pace, which is not possible in a traditional classroom, makes for an appealing alternative to lengthy, costly programs that do not guarantee employment upon graduation. Additional benefits to a career as a certified ophthalmic professional include:

  • Above average wages and benefits
  • Unlimited job opportunities
  • Flexible schedules
  • Long-term career advancements
On-the-job-training is required for JCAHPO certification, which can benefit candidates by allowing them to work while they prepare for the certification examination. This can help significantly reduce unnecessary debt. Another advantage of a career as an ophthalmic assistant is that the profession is in the midst of a staffing shortage, as Dr. Ehlers notes.

“Most ophthalmic practices hire both full- and part-time positions, allowing for a significant degree of flexibility in work schedules with infrequent weekend obligations. Plus, ophthalmic personnel work in a unique professional healthcare environment with other dedicated ophthalmic professionals,” remarks Dr. Ehlers. “With an estimated need for an additional 6,000 ophthalmic technicians in the U.S., a career in eye care is ideal for anyone who is self-motivated, has a desire to help people, and wants to make a difference.”

Candidates for JCAHPO certification must hold a high school diploma or equivalency. In addition, JCAHPO has established specific educational and work requirements for candidates applying for certification at each level. In general, candidates are eligible for certification if they have completed one of the following:

Educational resources available online include courses at http://www.myjcahpoce.org or JCAHPO’s newly launched Webinar series for eye care professionals. On http://www.myjcahpoce.org , individuals can select from a variety of courses, track progress, and earn credits toward certification examination eligibility.

JCAHPO certifies at three levels:

  • Certified Ophthalmic Assistant (COA®)
  • Certified Ophthalmic Technician (COT®)
  • Certified Ophthalmic Medical Technologist (COMT®)

And at four specialty levels:

  • Corporate Certified Ophthalmic Assistant (CCOA®)
  • Registered Ophthalmologic Ultrasound Biometrist (ROUB®)
  • Certified Diagnostic Ophthalmic Sonographer (CDOS℠)
  • Ophthalmic Surgical Assisting
As the American employment landscape continues to change, students and future professionals should be looking to sensible and affordable pathways such as eye care for career success.

For more information on JCAHPO certification or a career as a certified ophthalmic medical professional, visit http://www.jcahpo.org or http://www.myeyecareer.org .

¹ “Measuring Up 2008: The National Report Card on Higher Education.” The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, 2008. p. 8.
² Kroll, Andy. “Shut Out: How the Cost of Higher Education is Dividing Our Country.” April 3, 2009 ; TomDispatch.com. Retrieved November 17, 2009: commondreams.org/view/2009/04/03-3.

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