ATPO has recently released the results of their 2019 salary survey for ophthalmic assistants, technicians, and technologists.
What is an average salary for an ophthalmic assistant?

According to a 2019 salary survey by the Association of Technical Personnel in Ophthalmology, the average salary for certified ophthalmic medical assistant respondents to the survey was about 

$47K per year, which breaks down to about $22.50 per hour. We must take into account the experience and job tenure of the average respondent to the survey. The respondents to the 2019 survey on average had worked in the field for 10 years. Also, the response rate to the survey was low. There are around 26K certified personnel worldwide and the survey had 664 respondents, which is about a 2% response rate. The vast majority of respondents were paid per hour. Those few who responded that they were paid on a fixed "salary" basis made significantly more money, probably reflecting that they were in supervisory roles, but this was not indicated.

Indeed.com and other job related websites provide salary data that is based upon what current job listings are posting as salary. These are representative of current listings only. Many companies do not publish salary information with their listings. These listings include more entry level salaries, which will bring the average down. The ATPO survey is heavily weighted toward personnel who have many years of experience. 

How is ophthalmic assistant salary trending over time?

Below are the average salary listings for certified ophthalmic assistants from the ATPO surveys:

  • 2007 survey: $44K
  • 2009 survey: $48K
  • 2011 survey: $43K
  • 2013 survey: $50K
  • 2015 survey: $46K
  • 2017 survey: $45K
  • 2019 servey: $47K

This dip in the 2011 survey may not be a surprise considering the economic difficulties during the time period leading up to the survey.

How does ophthalmic assistant salary compare with ophthalmic technician and ophthalmic technologist salary?

The 2019 ATPO survey lists the following averages:

  • COA®: $47K
  • COT®: $53K
  • COMT®: $63K
Is it worth it to move from COA® certification to COT® certification?

The obvious answer from this survey is "yes". On average you can make $6K more per year. Over a period of 10 years, we are talking about another $60,000. Find out how to get certified or move to the next level of certification.

Is it worth it to move from COT® certification to COMT® certification?

Again, the answer is another "yes". On average you can make $10K more per year, or about $100,000 over a 10 year period of employment.

At the entry level, is it worth getting certified as an ophthalmic assistant vs. staying uncertified?

As you may know, there is no certification requirement for ophthalmic medical personnel under the law. Therefore, you do not have to be certified as an ophthalmic assistant to work as an ophthalmic assistant. There is not a large amount of data from the ATPO surveys regarding certified vs. non-certified, because the vast majority of the participants were certified. In their 2007 survey, limited data showed that those certified for less than 2 years had an average salary of $29K, while those certified for 10 years or more had an average salary of $43K. Around the same time, a survey by the ASOA showed that assistants certified for less than one year had an average salary of $24K, while those certified for more than one year had an average salary of about $35K. The 2019 ATPO survey listed non-certified respondents as having an average salary of $41K (about $20/hour) compared to $47K for a COA, but there were only 61non-certified respondents. Entry level positions listed on job sites, sampled in January of 2018, showed the median salary to be $16-$17 per hour (about $34K per year) for an ophthalmic assistant.

Therefore, the data again supports the financial benefits of certification.

What kind of employment benefits are there for the ophthalmic medical personnel?

The vast majority of respondents in the surveys (certified personnel) had paid holidays, paid vacation, and paid health insurance benefits.

What factors influence the level of ophthalmic medical personnel salary?

The following is a compilation of factors mentioned by several salary surveys. Keep in mind that these are not guarantees, just generalities:

  • Those in large metro areas tend to make more than those in smaller cities/towns.
  • Those on the coasts make more than those in the middle of the country.
  • Areas with a shortage of available personnel will pay more.
  • The more experience you have, the more you get paid.
  • Advanced education and training results in higher paid.
  • The more responsibility you assume, the more you are paid.
  • Supervisors make more than those being supervised.
  • The longer you stay with an employer, generally the more you will be paid.
  • Salaried personnel make more than hourly personnel. This most likely reflects those in management and supervisory positions. Limited data shows that you may make $10k to $20k more per year if you are a salaried supervisor, independent of the level of certification.