There are three core certification levels Allied Ophthalmic Personnel can achieve
The occupation “Allied Ophthalmic Personnel” encompasses three levels of JCAHPO certification. These three certifications are differentiated by level of experience, training, and education.
Entry Level – Certified Ophthalmic Assistants (COA)
The Certified Ophthalmic Assistant (COA®) certification level is JCAHPO’s initial core level of certification. The COA is the entry-level pathway for a career as a certified allied ophthalmic professional. COA certificants have completed an independent study course or accredited training program and pass the COA level examination. COAs are trained to perform many skilled tasks, and have the knowledge and confidence to provide better patient care. COA certification ultimately gives individuals the potential for career advancement.
COAs work under the supervision and direction of an ophthalmologist to perform ophthalmic clinical duties. They are trained to measure visual acuity, instill ocular medications, obtain ocular, medical, and family history, perform manifest refractometry, instruct patients regarding medications, tests, and procedures, coordinate patient flow, measure intraocular pressure by applanation tonometry, participate in telephone triage, measure pinhole acuity, and measure, compare, and test pupils.
The majority of JCAHPO certified personnel enter the field through approved independent study courses. Another way is through an accredited formal training program.
Intermediate Level – Certified Ophthalmic Technicians (COT)
The Certified Ophthalmic Technician (COT®) certification level is JCAHPO’s second core level designation. COT’s have generally either worked as a COA for at least a year or graduated from a JCAHPO accredited program for Ophthalmic Technicians.
COTs are trained to perform many skilled tasks and have strong knowledge base for work in the eye care field. COTs are dedicated to their profession as a member of the allied health personnel community, and have invested time and effort in pursuit of their education and certification.
COTs have more responsibilities, technical skills, and experience than COAs. COTs differ from COAs in the some of the following areas: visual fields, basic ocular motility, clinical optics, contact lenses, intermediate tonometry, and photography.
To become a COT an individual must follow one of the following pathways: Graduate from and accredited Formal Training Program; Currently certified as a COA and work experience; or Currently certified as an orthoptist* and work experience.
Advanced Level – Certified Ophthalmic Medical Technologists (COMT)
COMTs are among the top trained and educated personnel in the allied health profession. COMT certificants are highly skilled and trained eye care professionals. Through intense study, work experience and training, they have demonstrated as commitment to this profession by actively pursuing JCAHPO’s top tier certification level.
COMT’s are trained to take medical histories, administer eye medications, instruct the patient in care and use of corrective lenses, perform all the ophthalmic tests necessary for preliminary and highly specific eye exams, assist in ophthalmic surgery, and maintain ophthalmic and surgical instruments, as well as office equipment.
COMTs are required to invest years of education, training, and work experience before becoming eligible for certification. COMTs are trained for all of the general responsibilities of COAs and COTs, and trained for additional duties such as taking ophthalmic photographs, using ultrasound, as well as providing instruction and supervision to other ophthalmic personnel. COMTs are expected to perform at a higher level of expertise than ophthalmic technicians and to exercise considerable technical judgment.
To become a COMT individuals must following one of the following pathways: Graduate from an accredited Formal Training program AND have two or more years of college education; Graduate from an accredited Formal Training program with less than two years of college education and work experience; Currently certified as a COT and work experience; or Currently certified as an orthoptist and work experience.
Additional career opportunities
As Allied Ophthalmic Personnel, there are additional career paths and training available.