By Jordyn Holliday
College of DuPage’s new Ophthalmic Technician Associate in Applied Science degree is one of only two programs of its kind in Illinois, preparing students for careers in one of the fastest-growing areas in the health care industry.
The 64-credit hour degree, which will be offered for the first time during the spring 2019 semester, is designed to provide the medical eye care community with skilled ophthalmology and optometric assistants who render support services and aid in the treatment of eye conditions and diseases. It will also prepare students for the Certified Ophthalmic Technician (COT) certification, which is the national certifying exam administered by the Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology.
Graduates of the existing Eye Care Assistant program and current certified ophthalmic assistants (COAs) in Illinois who wish to continue their education can progress to the Ophthalmic Technician A.A.S., opening the door for opportunities to advance their careers by becoming a COT.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the eye care industry is expected to experience substantial growth during the next decade due to the increase in the 65 and older population. As a result, local eye care providers are in need of skilled professionals to fill much-needed roles.
“The need for the program at COD originally came when Wheaton Eye Clinic approached the Board and expressed that they were not finding qualified individuals,” said Program Coordinator Mitzi Thomas. “There is only one other program such as this in Illinois, which is at Triton College. There are typically around 20 to 25 graduates from that program per year and this alone is not enough to fulfill the necessity in Illinois.”
What sets the Ophthalmic Technician A.A.S. apart is a hybrid format consisting of both classroom and online courses.
“Something we focus on is making it convenient for adult learners and students with other obligations,” Thomas said. “It was important to create a program that allows students to focus on their their personal lives while completing their degrees.”
Thomas added that COD is the only college in the state that mandates students take the certification exam upon graduating.
“By the end of the program, students will certainly be qualified and prepared to take the exam,” she said. “One of the reasons we chose to implement this was because physicians often ask, ‘Who checks to make sure these students are competent in their skills?’ This way, students at least have a clear idea of where they stand and are fully prepared to enter the workforce.”
The degree program will use various optometric and ophthalmology practices for clinical and lab experiences and will enhance COD’s Health Sciences discipline. For more information, contact Mitzi Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org.