Career Development

What Does an Optical Assistant Do?

Find out what an optical assistant does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as an optical assistant.

Optical assistants are responsible for helping optometrists and ophthalmologists with the day-to-day operations of their practice. They commonly assist with patient exams, but they may also be involved in other aspects of running a business, such as scheduling appointments or handling paperwork.

Optical assistants must have strong interpersonal skills to work effectively with patients and doctors. They must also be detail-oriented and able to follow instructions carefully; this is especially true when assisting with eye exams, where precision is key.

Optical Assistant Job Duties

Optical assistants have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Creating digital images of patients’ mouths by taking intraoral photographs of teeth and gums
  • Taking measurements of patients’ eyes or facial features with a ruler or caliper to determine prescription needs
  • Measuring patients’ heads with a tape measure to determine size of hats or helmets needed for protection from trauma
  • Examining patients’ eyes with a slit lamp microscope or other diagnostic equipment to detect diseases or disorders
  • Cleaning patients’ teeth using an ultrasonic cleaner or manual methods, such as brushing and flossing
  • Cleaning, maintaining, and sterilizing equipment used in eye care, including contact lenses, eyeglasses, and other equipment
  • Explaining the procedure to the patient, outlining potential risks and complications, and answering any questions regarding post-procedure care
  • Preparing patients for eye exams by taking their weight and height, measuring the distance between their pupils, and recording information about their vision problems
  • Communicating with other members of the healthcare team, including doctors, nurses, lab technicians, and dentists, to ensure that each patient receives the best possible care

Optical Assistant Salary & Outlook

The salary of an optical assistant can vary depending on a number of factors, including their level of experience, the size of the company they work for, and the geographic location of their job.

  • Median Annual Salary: $31,500 ($15.14/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $53,500 ($25.72/hour)

The employment of optical assistants is expected to grow at an average rate over the next decade.

Ophthalmic laboratory technicians and optical assistants will be needed to fill jobs in optical stores, where people buy eyeglasses and contact lenses. In addition, demand for these workers will stem from the need to repair and maintain equipment used in ophthalmic laboratories.

Related: 25 Optical Assistant Interview Questions and Answers

Optical Assistant Job Requirements

To become an optical assistant, one may need to possess the following:

Education: Most employers require optical assistants to have at least a high school diploma or GED. Some employers prefer an associate’s degree in opticianry or a related field. These programs typically take two years to complete and include courses in anatomy, physiology, chemistry, biology, mathematics and technical skills.

Training & Experience: Most employers require candidates to complete an internship before they can be hired as an optical assistant. An internship allows candidates to gain hands-on experience in a retail optical store. During an internship, an optical assistant will learn how to assist customers, clean and organize the store, and assist optometrists and opticians.

Some employers may also require optical assistants to complete additional training. For example, an optical assistant who works in a retail store may need to learn about the different brands and products the store sells. An optical assistant who works in a hospital or clinic may need to learn about the different equipment and procedures the facility uses.

Certifications & Licenses: Optical assistants do not need a certification to get hired but may pursue one once they are employed to increase their earning potential and enhance their credentials.

Optical Assistant Skills

Optical assistants need the following skills in order to be successful:

Communication skills: Communication skills are also important in an optical assistant position. You may be required to communicate with patients, doctors and other staff members. It’s important to be able to listen to and understand others and to be able to explain information to others in a clear and concise manner.

Technical skills: Technical skills are the abilities you have that allow you to perform tasks and complete projects. Having strong technical skills can help you be a more valuable employee and improve your ability to learn new skills. Examples of technical skills include your ability to use computer programs, your ability to troubleshoot technical issues and your ability to use tools and equipment.

Attention to detail: Having attention to detail means that you can notice small errors and make corrections to ensure that a product or service is of high quality. As an optical assistant, you may be in charge of preparing frames, so it’s important to check the measurements of the frames to ensure they’re accurate. You may also be in charge of preparing lenses, so it’s important to check the quality of the lenses to ensure they’re clean and free of scratches.

Customer service: Customer service skills can help you interact with customers and provide them with the information they need. You can use customer service skills to help customers find the right frames for their faces, help them understand the differences between lenses and help them find the right frames for their budget.

Teamwork: Working in a team can help you learn from others and share your knowledge with others. Being a team member can help you learn new skills and improve your performance. You can use teamwork in your career as an optical assistant by working with your colleagues to help customers and solve problems.

Optical Assistant Work Environment

The work environment for an optical assistant is usually in a retail setting, such as an eyeglass store, department store, or optical laboratory. They may also work in a hospital or private practice setting. Optical assistants typically work a regular 40-hour week, although some may work evenings or weekends to accommodate their customers’ schedules. The job can be stressful at times, especially when dealing with customers who are unhappy with their purchase. However, most optical assistants find the work to be rewarding and enjoy helping people improve their vision.

Optical Assistant Trends

Here are three trends influencing how optical assistants work. Optical assistants will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Use of Virtual Reality in Eye Care

The use of virtual reality (VR) in eye care is a growing trend that is being used to help patients overcome their fears and phobias about eye exams. By using VR, optical assistants can create a safe environment for patients to explore their eyes without having to actually be in the doctor’s office.

This trend will continue to grow as more people become aware of the benefits of VR in eye care. Optical assistants who are able to utilize this technology will be highly valued by employers, as they will be able to provide a more comfortable experience for patients.

More Focus on Customer Service

As customers become more demanding, optical stores are beginning to focus more on customer service. This means that optical assistants will need to be well-versed in customer service skills, such as communication, empathy, and problem solving.

In order to keep up with the competition, optical stores will need to offer something extra to set them apart from the rest. One way to do this is by providing excellent customer service. By developing these skills, optical assistants can ensure that they are prepared for the future of optical retail.

Optical Stores Become More Like Retail Stores

As optical stores become more like retail stores, optical assistants will need to learn new skills in order to stay competitive.

One of the most important changes that optical assistants will need to adapt to is the shift towards selling products that are not just eyewear. In order to be successful in the future, optical assistants will need to be able to sell other products, such as sunglasses, contact lenses, and eye care products.

How to Become an Optical Assistant

Optical assistants have a lot of opportunities for growth. They can move up the ranks to become an optical manager, or they can specialize in one area of the business, such as sales or optometry. They can also move into other related fields, such as vision therapy or ocularmology.

The best way to advance your career as an optical assistant is to stay up-to-date on the latest trends in eyewear and lenses. You should also be familiar with the latest technologies used in eye care. Additionally, you should build relationships with local optometrists and ophthalmologists so that you can refer patients to them when necessary.

Advancement Prospects

As an optical assistant, you will usually start out working under the supervision of a more experienced optical assistant or optician. With experience, you may be promoted to a lead optical assistant position, in which you would oversee the work of other optical assistants.

If you are interested in becoming an optician, you will need to complete an accredited opticianry program and pass a state-licensed opticianry exam. Some states have additional requirements, such as continuing education. Once you are licensed, you may be promoted to a manager or supervisor position in an optical shop or department store, or you may open your own optical business.

Optical Assistant Job Description Example

At [CompanyX], we provide our patients with the highest quality of eye care possible. We are looking for an optical assistant to join our team. The ideal candidate will have excellent customer service skills and be able to work well under pressure. He or she will be responsible for helping patients select the right eyewear, adjusting and repairing glasses, and maintaining the cleanliness of the optical department.

Duties & Responsibilities

  • Greet patients and customers warmly, in person and on the phone
  • Schedule appointments, confirm appointments, and check patients in and out
  • Verify patient insurance benefits and coverage
  • Collect copays and process payments
  • Perform pre-testing procedures such as visual acuity, pressure checks, and auto-refraction
  • Assist the optometrist or ophthalmologist during exams
  • Educate patients on their vision health, eyewear options, and contact lenses
  • Dispense and fit eyeglasses and contact lenses
  • Answer patient questions and address concerns
  • Maintain a clean and organized work area
  • Follow all company policies and procedures
  • Additional duties as assigned

Required Skills and Qualifications

  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • Previous experience in customer service, retail sales, or the optical industry
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Ability to work well under pressure and multitask
  • Basic math skills
  • Flexibility to work evenings and weekends

Preferred Skills and Qualifications

  • Associate’s degree or higher
  • Bilingual (English/Spanish)
  • Certification from the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) or National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE)
  • Experience with insurance billing and coding
  • Working knowledge of Microsoft Office, especially Excel


What Does a Wellness Director Do?

Back to Career Development

What Does a Walmart Store Manager Do?