An ophthalmic medical technician cuts and shapes glass to make prescription eyeglasses and contact lenses. He or she works in a medical laboratory, making lenses according to an optometrist's or ophthalmologist's specifications. A technician takes a blank piece of glass or plastic and performs all the cutting, grinding, shaping, finishing, and fitting tasks necessary to create a perfect prescription lens.
While most lens crafting was done by hand in the past, advances in medical technology require that an ophthalmic medical technician be comfortable working with delicate machinery. An automated machine called a lens grinder is used to curve a blank eyeglass lens according to an optometrist's prescription. An ophthalmic medical technician then carefully examines the lens with a special magnifying tool to ensure the curvature is correct. After confirming the curvature, the technician employs a finishing tool, which may be hand held or automated, to smooth away imperfections. Once a lens is ground into its approximate final shape, the technician cuts the lens to fit into a specific eyeglass frame.
Hospitals and general eye care clinics are the main employers of ophthalmic medical technicians, though some professionals find work in private optometrists' offices and in retail stores. Regardless of the job setting, technicians frequently work in similar labs with access to the same tools. A technician's job usually takes place out of the public eye, though he or she may occasionally need to communicate with opticians, optometrists, and customers throughout the lens crafting process to make sure that specifications are being met.
To become an ophthalmic medical technician, a person must typically have at least a high school diploma and complete on the job training. Some employers prefer to hire technicians who have completed optical technology programs offered by community colleges and vocational schools. Such programs generally last six months to a year, and graduates receive an ophthalmic medical technician certificate or associate degree. Training periods may last up to one year and consist of hands on laboratory instruction. New technicians in training often assist experienced professionals, learning about the equipment and techniques necessary in the trade.
There is a consistent demand for qualified ophthalmic medical technicians in all job settings. Skilled technicians are necessary to meet the needs of a growing population of people who require corrective lenses. New technological advances in crafting machinery, along with the influx of new eyeglass and contact lens styles, require experts to adapt to a changing career field.