Duke Ophthalmic Technician Program


Celebrating 35 Years


Duke Eye Center is proud to have offered the Duke Ophthalmic Technician Program in partnership with Duke University School of Medicine for 35 years.  The 51-week accelerated, affordable program strives to provide an exceptional education that prepares students for the certification exam for ophthalmic technicians and to excel once on the job.  
Those interested in the program should feel at ease knowing they have many career options after receiving a certified ophthalmic technician (COT) certification.  Program graduates have become team leads, clinical operations managers, ophthalmic photographers among other eye care and leadership roles.  

Facts about the Duke Ophthalmic Technician Program
  • Accelerated Program. A two-year program condensed into less than a year. One of only two programs in the country that can be completed in 51 weeks. 
  • Teaching Hospital Setting. Duke is a highly ranked teaching hospital and students are able to learn from some of the leading ophthalmologist in the country. 
  • Comprehensive Multispecialty Education. OpTech students attend many educational lectures with our ophthalmology trainees, their clinical rotation schedules include every sub-specialty in ophthalmology where they spend time with world-renowned physicians known for expertise and innovative techniques.  
  • High employment rate. more than 90% of Duke graduates are working in the field as Ophthalmic Technicians within a month of graduation, with many having secured their future positions prior to graduation.
What Students Will Learn
  • Technical skills to complete an eight-part eye exam, capture imaging studies, perform diagnostic testing, and assist in surgical procedures, as well as the importance of competence and accuracy.   
  • Gain an uncommon depth of knowledge of ocular anatomy, pathology, pharmacology, and medical and surgical treatment of eye disease.   
  • Rotating through their twelve clinical rotations, our students learn to be responsible, contributing members of an eye care team.  
  • Importance of reliably gathering information to support the ophthalmologist, using their resources in support of their team of staff members, and gaining the knowledge and confidence to effectively educate and advocate for the patients. 
What Former Students Are Saying 

What is your favorite thing about this career? 
The Duke OpTech program opened my eyes to the careers available in ophthalmology and there are many different pathways that you can take. I have experienced this first hand, starting out as a tech on the floor and progressing to Team Lead. From there, there was an additional opportunity to be clinic manager for the entire clinic. There is a lot of job security with becoming an ophthalmic technician because the field has grown so much.  
-Lee Ann McKinney, COT, Health Care Administrator for Duke Eye Center of Winston Salem 


What would you say about the program to people who are considering to apply? 
If you are considering applying for the program, do it. There are so many opportunities that come from the OpTech program at Duke. It is challenging, but the rewards and benefits are substantial. It is only a year, and after that you can work right away, that’s amazing. It is also very rewarding to follow the progress on the patient’s treatment and to see their vision improve and to know you are making a difference.  
-Judith Ramirez, COT 



What does it mean to be in the Duke OpTech program graduate? 
There was an immense sense of pride finishing the Duke OpTech program, finishing it well, and becoming certified afterward. I am pursuing a career that I enjoy and get to work with a variety of patients. I have been moving toward photography and am very interested in it. I showed a 14-year-old the photography of the inside her eye and she thought that was very cool. Not many people get to see that. It’s interesting and I look forward to further pursuing ophthalmic photography as a next step in my career. 
-Henry Cameron, COT 



From the Program and Education Director  

Deborah K. Smith, BS, COMT, OSC 
Upon completion of the Duke Ophthalmic Technician Program, I want each student to have the knowledge, skills and confidence to successfully achieve their COT certification. Our students exercise extreme discipline and make great personal sacrifices to complete our accelerated program. 

I am honored to contribute to the training of ophthalmic technicians. Our current students make each of my work-days an adventure-in-ophthalmology. Hearing from a graduate who has achieved a new career goal fuels my passion for my career. It has been said, “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” It is my good fortune to have found such a job. 

It is my privilege to work with our committed, dedicated, hardworking, students who have tremendous potential for great achievements in the future. I wish all of our students and graduates continued success and a very bright future.   


For more information, click here or email deborah.smith1@duke.edu