An optometric technician or assistant is a special type of medical assistant. They work in the offices of optometrists, eye care clinics, and other organizations that offer care for vision services.
These workers primarily help with basic front office procedures, including filing records, setting up appointments, managing insurance claims and handling paperwork related to each case. Optometric technicians also help patients to select their new eyewear, fit frames, and lenses and explain how to care for contact lenses and glasses.
These workers come to the eye care profession at an entry level salary or wage and can move higher with more experience and education.
Other duties for optometric technicians include the following:
- Receive customer orders for contact lens and eyeglass prescriptions
- Measure faces and eyes of customers, including the distance between pupils. This is important to ensure that the prescription is accurate
- Help customers to choose lens treatments and eyeglass frames, including glasses that should be used for work or sports related activities. Also, help them to choose tints or coatings that reflect harmful solar rays
- Create new work orders for lab technicians, and provide them with more information about the new lenses as needed
- Assist customers to ensure that the new eyewear fits properly
- Provide customer education about new eyewear, such as taking care of contact lenses. This can be very important to ensure that the customer does not have future eye problems
Salary Outlook Overview
The salary outlook for this profession will vary upon many factors. One of the most important ones is the level of education that you receive. Optometric technicians or opticians can enter the field with either an associate’s degree or a certificate from a technical school or community college.
The associate’s degree is a two-year program, while the certificate program is typically one year. Both programs require you to take courses in eye physiology, mathematics, business management, optics, eye measurements and other coursework.
Another factor in salary level is whether you have earned a certification. Becoming a certified optometric technician requires you to pass examinations from the American Board of Opticianry and the National Contact Lens Examiners.
The salary for this position can vary from employer to employer depending upon your level of education and certification. However, there is a general range of salary in the optometric technician field, which we examine below from various official sources.
Bureau of Labor Statistics
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median annual salary for optometric technicians and opticians was $35,530 as of May 2016. The top 10% in the field earn more than $57,000 per year.
The median wage for optometric technicians varies upon the type of workplace:
- Doctor’s office: $39,400
- Health care store: $36,600
- Optometrist office: $34,040
- Department store: $30,600
BLS also states that the median annual salary for all medical assistants – which is related to optometric technicians – was $31,500 in 2016. The top 10% earned more than $45,000 per year.
The level of salary will depend upon where you work. BLS also states that the median salary in this field is different in different workplaces:
- Outpatient care centers: $33,500
- Hospitals: $32,600
- Doctor’s offices: $31,700
- Other health care practitioner offices: $28,700
The salary website Payscale.com reports that the average optometric technician in the US earns an hourly wage of $14.96 per hour. On an annual basis, this adds up to a low-end salary of $22,000 and on the high end up to $50,000 per year. An experienced optometric technician can earn a typical hourly wage of $14.84.
Payscale.com states that the final salary may include bonuses and profit-sharing proceeds.
The website also notes that the main factor in determining salary level is the specific company. Lesser factors are how long you have been working in the field and the area of the country in which you live.
Regarding benefits, the website reports that approximately two in five have no healthcare benefits.
Also, this source notes that a typical career path for opticians and optometric technicians are as follows:
- Optometric technician
- Certified or licensed optician
- Optical manager or retail store manager
This website also reports that a licensed optician earns a higher hourly wage, at $20.22.
This website does not have information about the optometric technician profession. However, it states that an optician can earn a mean annual salary of $43,595 per year, as of April 2017. It also notes that the range is between $40,280 and $52,572.
Glassdoor.com states that the national, average optometric technician salary is $22,260 per year. It also provides some details on the hourly wages paid by large employers in this field:
- Visionworks: $38,000-$41,000
- Pearle Vision: $11-$13 per hour
- LensCrafters: $13-$14 per hour
This is a good entry-level career choice where you can earn a decent starting wage or salary, and then eventually move into higher level positions for more money.
Another factor to consider in becoming an optometric technician or optometrist is that the field is growing very rapidly. BLS states that there will be impressive 24% growth in this field by 2024. This is much faster than average when it is compared to other professions. This is occurring because the population of the United States is growing older, on average. People who are older will have more eye problems as the years go by, so there will be a greater need for opticians.
Also, there are more chronic diseases such as diabetes in the older population, so there will be more need for professionals to help these people to deal with various eyesight problems.
- Optometric Technician. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Optometric_Technician/Hourly_Rate/7f3c7fcc/Experienced
- Optician Hourly Rate. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Optician/Hourly_Rate
- Optometric Technician Salary. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/optometric-technician-salary-SRCH_KO0,21.htm
- Dispensing Opticians. (2015, Dec. 17). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/opticians-dispensing.htm#tab-6
- Optician Salaries. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www1.salary.com/Optician-Salaries.html#