Ocularists work to make a positive difference in the lives of people who have lost one or both eyes due to injury, disease or accident. They create artificial eyes – which are scientifically known as prostheses – from medical grade plastic acrylic or cryolite glass. Ophthalmologists and other medical practitioners fit these eyes into the eye sockets of patients. If you love working with people who have physical challenges, then you can consider becoming an ocularist.
What Do Ocularists Do?
In detail, ocularists perform the following duties:
- Taking measurements of patients’ eye sockets
- Designing new prostheses and fabricating existing ones
- Repairing damaged prostheses
- Providing technical assistance to eye doctors who plant prostheses under patients’ eyelids
- Educating patients on how to clean and maintain the prostheses
- Maintaining laboratory equipment and devices.
Although ocularists typically work from 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday, they may extend work into late evenings and weekends to meet clients’ needs.
Ocularists in private practice spend their time in an office environment and have more control over their work hours. On the other hand, those who are employed in companies that manufacture prostheses often spend their time in laboratories.
The following are some of the US cities with the highest salaries for ocularists:
San Francisco, California
Providence, Rhode Island
Charlotte, North Carolina
Source: Salary Expert
Perhaps the most surprising fact about this profession is that there aren’t any schools – undergraduate or graduate – that offer an academic program in ocularistry. The only way to get started is to pursue the American Society of Ocularists (ASO)’s apprenticeship program or join an apprenticeship scheme in your local area.
Those who wish to pursue ASO training must study all aspects of ocular prosthetics, receive five years of practical training, and complete 750 study credits offered by the Society. Apprentices who successfully meet these requirements are awarded the title Diplomate of the American Society of Ocularists.
If you choose the latter option, it is important to ensure your trainer is a Board Approved Diplomate Ocularist.
After completing the relevant training, you qualify to practice as an ocularist. However, in some states such as Washington, you will need to obtain a professional license before you can join a practice. It is therefore important to verify your state’s requirements.
To perform the role of an ocularist successfully, you need:
- An aptitude for practical work
- Manual dexterity and physical stamina
- Strong creative and design skills
- The ability to follow instructions accurately
- Good communication and interpersonal skills
- Good painting skills
- Good technical skills
- A passion for helping the sick or disabled
- Good teamwork skills
- Good computer skills.
After getting employed, you may begin as an assistant ocularist working under experienced practitioners. As you gain more work experience, you will need to obtain professional certifications to improve your competence and advancement prospects.
The National Examining Board of Ocularists, for example, offers a board certification, which you can obtain to demonstrate your competence to potential employers and clients alike. To obtain this certification, you must pass a written and practical examination.
To access other professional development resources such as research publications and industry seminars, secure membership in ASO.
The employers of qualified ocularists include:
- General medical and surgical hospitals
- Eye clinics
- Artificial eye laboratories
- Optometry Offices.
Many experienced ocularists move into private practice where they establish their own ocularist offices. Others move into related fields such as prosthetic technology.
Finally, aspiring ocularists should not expect to face stiff competition for jobs. According to the Population Reference Bureau, U.S. baby boomers are more likely to develop a disability as they approach late life. With the baby boomer generation aging, the demand for eye care services is increasing
So as long as you are well-trained and board certified, you don’t have to worry about going for long with a job.