The top 10 percent of all optometrist tech workers in the United States earned annual salaries above $43,870, according to May 2011 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These professionals, also called opthalmic lab, optometric or paraoptometric technicians, work closely with optometrists. They primarily help opticians serve patients, and then get them fitted for eyewear. These optical specialists must have excellent communication skills, manual dexterity and keen attention to detail to perform their jobs effectively.
The primary duties of an optometrist tech includes performing eye exams for patients, fitting them for lenses and researching their patients' medical histories. They also study the curvature of eyeballs and the retinal area of patients to detect possible abnormalities, including astigmatism, glaucoma and retinal tears. Some also work in labs, grinding eyeglasses and contacts for patients. They then insert and fit the lenses in eyeglasses.
Average Salary and Benefits
Optometrist techs earned average annual salaries of $29,920, according to the BLS. The middle half made between $22,400 and $36,110 per year. Those in the bottom 10 percent earned less than $18,620 annually. Earnings are usually based on experience, geographical location and employer size. Full-time workers typically receive benefits such as health insurance, paid vacations and holidays and retirement savings plans.
Salary by Industry
An optometrist tech's pay can also vary somewhat by industry. They earned the highest annual salaries working for general medical and surgical hospitals at $44,460, according to the BLS. They also earned relatively high salaries of $43,320 as federal government employees. Those working in physicians' offices, including optometrists, made salaries closer to the national average at $34,590 per year.
Salary by State
Optometrist tech professionals tend to earn the highest annual salaries on the East Coast. For example, they earned the highest incomes of $38,550 per year in Massachusetts. They also earned above average salaries of $37,030 and $36,380 per year, respectively, in Connecticut and Maryland. These workers were paid salaries closer to the national average in Florida at $32,280 per year. And those in Texas made significantly less at $23,800 annually.
Education and Training
Most optometrist techs are only required to have high school degrees. They then learn their trade on the job. High school students interested in this career are encouraged to take courses in design, technology and industrial arts, according to the BLS. Technical schools and community colleges may offer this type of education. Also, many states require that these professionals become certified by taking a 250-question exam, according to the American Optometric Association.
The number of jobs for optometrist tech workers is expected to increase by 13 percent between 2010 and 2020, according to the BLS. This rate of growth is about as fast as average for all occupations. Job growth will primarily be spurred by population increases as well as a growing number of middle-age people. Older people requiring bifocals, for example, will contribute to job growth in this field.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment Statistics: Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians
- Education Portal.com: Optical Lab Technician: Job Description, Duties and Requirements
- Careers in the Military: Optometric Technicians
- DegreeDirectory.org:What's the Job Description of an Optometric Technician?
- American Optometric Association: Certified Paraoptometric Technician (CPOT)