The optometric technician is an important member of the eye care team who helps to support licensed providers by performing tasks required for the effective evaluation of all patients. The optometric technician salary reflects the value that an individual adds to an organization and is competitive compared to several allied health options. Those considering this career opportunity are encouraged to become familiar with the profession and the many elements that can influence their earning potential before seeking employment.
Common Work Responsibilities
There are a number of patient care tasks that a technician can expect to be responsible for including tonometry and tonography testing; measuring visual acuity; documenting medical and surgical histories; visual field tests; administering ophthalmic medications; the operation of autorefractors, retinoscopes, and phoropters; sterilizing and preparing surgical instruments; measuring axial length and corneal curvature; recording of lens power using a lensometer; providing customer service; communicating with coworkers and advanced medical providers; working with electronic medical records; training and teaching other technicians; taking ophthalmic photographs; using ultrasound; and much more.
The responsibilities assigned to an individual are usually dependent on the needs of the facility, level of experience, credentials, and willingness to accept tasks. One of the most effective strategies for increasing the optometric technician salary is to take advantage of administrative promotions that are offered after the individual has worked in the industry for a few years and has acquired the credentials needed to become successful in a managerial position.
Technicians are diverse employees who have a variety of job titles and who often work in a range of healthcare organizations. Some of the most common titles that are used in the US include that of ophthalmic medical technician, ophthalmic medical assistant, and optometric technician. Most medical facilities that offer eye care services will employ a number of technicians and it is not uncommon to find them in a physician’s office, outpatient care centers, medical and surgical hospitals, equipment supply companies, government agencies, and independent educational institutions. It is very important for technicians to carefully evaluate the type of organization where they would like to seek employment since the optometric technician salary can vary significantly between establishments.
According to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, those who work for outpatient care centers, surgical hospitals, or for the equipment supply companies can average between $42,000 and $45,000 per year while those within physician’s offices earn $30,000 and $35,000. Although the type of employer is not the only factor that can affect earnings, it does result in dramatic differences for individuals working in the same region with similar credentials. Most directors will address the issue during the interview and orientation process.
Another element that may influence the ability of an individual to secure a desirable wage is geographic location. Government statistics show that the states of California, Texas, New York, Florida, and North Carolina offer the highest number of employment opportunities while Alaska, Hawaii, Minnesota, Washington, and New Jersey do benefit from a high average optometric technician salary. This finding can be attributed to high demand for care in areas that are densely populated or that lack supply when it comes to new technicians entering the industry. Those who are interested in maximizing their earning potential may want to think about relocating to a metropolitan area in one of these states.
Education and Training
Most states do not require a technician to become licensed in order to work in the eye care industry. An employer who has formal competency standards for an individual working in the profession will often only consider applicants who have passed a formal training program offered in-house or through a vocational school and who have taken a national certification exam. Areas that do not have training programs available through colleges or vocational schools tend to provide the knowledge and skills needed through in-house instruction and hands-on clinical experience. Local employers and educational institutions can be contacted directly to find out about opportunities that are available in the area. The Commission on Accreditation of Ophthalmic Medical Programs is also able to provide details about accredited programs in different states.
The Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology (JCAHPO) is one of the only national organizations that administers certification exams for individuals in the eye care industry. The Certified Ophthalmic Technician (COT) examination is the second core level designation following the Certified Ophthalmic Assistant (COA) exam. Individuals can become eligible for the COT by graduating from an accredited training program, completing assistant certification along with work experience, or completing certification as an orthoptist and gaining work experience. Additional details about the eligibility pathways can be found on the JCAHPO website. Reviewing this information prior to entering the profession will help accelerate the career advancement process.
There are several factors that can affect the size of the optometric technician salary and that must be considered when trying to maximize earning potential. Those who take the time to review each of the factors above are in the best position to accurately predict how much they can expect to earn and the steps that will need to be taken to increase pay. An informed perspective of one’s career advancement options is one of the best ways to find employment and to benefit from several years of personal and professional satisfaction.