How Much Do Ophthalmic Technicians Make?

The short answer is that it depends!

Many ophthalmic technicians learn on-the-job training fresh out of high school or after earning a GED. And while it’s possible to stay employed and earn money without formal training, investing in ophthalmic technician education and certification offers the best chance of reaching the highest salary levels.

Ophthalmic technicians are one of the many fast-growing healthcare careers in the United States. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a 12 percent increase in the coming decade between 2020 and 2030, which is faster than the national average for all occupations (8 percent).

The BLS shows that the median salary for dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians is $38,620 (BLS 2021). However, the figures above represent a broad occupational classification for several related jobs. This guide features distinctive salary data for ophthalmic medical technicians, including regional and workplace statistics from the BLS and other sources in the sections below to provide the most specific salary information.

This career combines patient interaction with technical skills and is ideal for those looking for a minimal investment in a high-growth occupation. Ophthalmic technician education and certification are optional but highly recommended to earn the most money. To this point, Sharon Alamalhoaei, COMT, who has worked in ophthalmology for 25 years, says:

“Becoming certified […] distinguishes you from your peers. Taking the [certified ophthalmic technician or COT] exam shows your doctor, your manager, and your colleagues that you take your vocation seriously. In general, this will have incredible benefits for your career and will help propel you to advancement.”

Penn Foster

Certified versus non-certified salary figures are noted when available to highlight the differences in earnings. To learn more about how to apply for accredited programs and be eligible for certification, please see our guide to ophthalmic technician schools.

Read on to learn more about how much ophthalmic technicians make, including regional salary data, average pay by work environment, and salary percentages based on education and experience.

Ophthalmic Technician Salary Overall

Ophthalmic medical technicians earn less than the national average for all occupations, which the BLS (May 2021) lists at $58,260 per year or $28.01 per hour. The 65,700 ophthalmic techs nationally earned an average of $41,120.

Levels of education and years of experience are influential factors to consider over a career’s lifetime. The BLS (May 2021) breaks down ophthalmic medical technician salary percentiles as follows:

  • 10th percentile: $28,910 or $13.90 per hour
  • 25th percentile: $30,950 or $14.88 per hour
  • 50th percentile (median): $37,180 or $17.87 per hour
  • 75th percentile: $46,700 or $22.45 per hour
  • 90th percentile: $58,500 or $28.12 per hour

As previously discussed, having ophthalmic technician certification can increase one’s chances of earning higher salaries. According to PayScale, a self-reported aggregator of salary data, certified ophthalmic technicians make almost 5 percent more. This represents a difference in pay of $2,100 or $175.90 per month compared to non-certified ophthalmic technicians.

The average annual salary for non-certified ophthalmic technicians is $44,724 or $17.60 per hour based on 1,300 salary profiles (PayScale 2022). Salary percentiles for non-certified professionals are as follows:

  • 10th percentile: $32,000 or $13.28 per hour
  • 50th percentile: $45,000 or $17.60 per hour
  • 90th percentile: $61,000 or $24.23 per hour

By comparison, certified ophthalmic technicians earn $46,835 per year or $21.37 based on 530 self-reported salaries (PayScale 2022). Salary percentiles for certified professionals are:

  • 10th percentile: $33,000 or $16.19 per hour
  • 50th percentile: $47,000 or $21.37 per hour
  • 90th percentile: $59,000 or $27.98 per hour

As with most professions, having professional certification increases an employee’s chances of earning more over a career lifetime. Moreover, having ophthalmic technician certification puts job seekers in a better position to negotiate raises in current situations and command higher salaries when looking for new opportunities.

In conclusion, salary data varies widely for ophthalmic technicians and depends on cost-of-living, education and experience, full-time and part-time work, and professional certification. Therefore, job seekers need to be fully informed of these aspects to find satisfying and lucrative jobs.

Ophthalmic Technician Salary by State

Cost of living by region is one of the most important factors to consider when looking for jobs and negotiating salary. Dollars earned in a state with a higher cost of living (such as the western and eastern coastal states) will go less than dollars earned in a state with a lower cost of living (such as the states located in the southern, central, and mid-western regions).

The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2022) is a valuable tool for calculating the cost of living and affordability in a particular state. MERIC compares expenses such as groceries, housing, utilities, transportation, and healthcare to determine the rankings of the most- and least-affordable places to live in the United States.

For example, four of the five top-paying states for ophthalmic medical technicians are also in the top 10 most expensive states in MERIC’s 2021 composite cost of living index. While these states offer the highest salaries in the nation, the cost of basic needs and goods such as a place to live, heating and cooling, and food to eat is also high.

Here are the five top-paying states for ophthalmic medical technicians (BLS May 2021):

  • Alaska: $56,890 (annual average) or $27.35 per hour
  • Minnesota: $54,500 or $26.20
  • New Jersey: $51,780 or $24.90
  • California: $51,010 or $24.53
  • Oregon: $48,220 or $23.18

Interestingly, Minnesota offers the highest wages ophthalmic medical technicians and ranks 26 on MERIC’s 2021 cost of living index. This means that job-seekers in the North Star State are well-positioned to earn high salaries and enjoy a relatively affordable cost of living.

Job availability is another critical factor to consider when looking for employment.

Here are the top five states with the highest employment levels for ophthalmic medical technicians and their annual and hourly earnings (BLS May 2021):

  • California: 5,610 employed; earning $51,010 per year or $24.53 per hour
  • New York: 4,5,310 employed; $43,370 or $20.85
  • Texas: 4,900 employed; $34,270 or $16.48
  • Florida: 4,880 employed; $41,160 or $19.79
  • North Carolina: 3,290 employed; $38,060 or $18.30

Ophthalmic Technician Salary by Region

Metropolitan areas are well-known for offering high convenience and services to their residents. In general, bigger cities and their surrounding regions pay higher salaries to match higher living costs in places with higher population density.

Here are 10 of the top-paying metropolitan areas for ophthalmic medical technicians (BLS May 2021):

  • Springfield, IL: $68,780 (annual average) or $33.07 per hour
  • San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA: $63,650 or $30.60
  • Vallejo-Fairfield, CA: $62,050 or $29.83
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI: $53,250 or $25.60
  • Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA: $53,140 or $25.55
  • Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA: $52,020 or $25.01
  • San Diego-Carlsbad, CA: $51,860 or $24.93
  • Chattanooga, TN-GA: $50,260 or $24.16
  • Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA: $50,200 or $24.14

Here are 10 of the metropolitan areas with the highest levels of employment for ophthalmic medical technicians and their annual and hourly earnings (BLS May 2021):

  • New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA: 5,010 employed; $45,820 (annual average) or $22.03 per hour
  • Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL, IN, WI: 1,940 employed; $44,770 or $21.53
  • Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL: 1,940 employed; $44,960 or $21.62
  • Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ: 1,640 employed; $37,400 or $17.98
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA: 1,580 employed; $47,720 or $22.94
  • Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX: 1,350 employed; $36,490 or $17.54
  • Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI: 1,210 employed; $44,000 or $21.15
  • Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA: 960 employed; $39,760 or $19.12
  • Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV: 890 employed; $41,270 or $16.84
  • Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX: 840 employed; $36,390 or $17.49

Ophthalmic Technician Salary by Work Environment

When seeking employment as an ophthalmic medical technician, one final factor is which industries and work environments hire and pay the most.

Here are five industries with the highest levels of employment for ophthalmic medical technicians, as well as their annual salaries and hourly rates (BLS May 2021):

  • Offices of physicians: 41,310 employed; $42,890 (annual average) or $20.62 per hour
  • Offices of other health practitioners: 17,290 employed; $34,700 or $16.68
  • General medical and surgical hospitals: 2,490 employed: $51,380 or $24.70
  • Health and personal care stores: 2,110 employed; $32,400 or $15.58
  • Outpatient care centers: 1,130 employed; $58,810 or $28.27

These figures show that while physicians’ offices are the top employers in terms of numbers, the industries offering the highest pay to ophthalmic medical technicians are outpatient care centers and general medical and surgical hospitals.

As for the highest salaries, here are the five top-paying industries for ophthalmic medical technicians (BLS May 2021):

  • Outpatient care centers: $58,810 (annual average) or $28.27 per hour
  • Employment services: $56,360 or $27.09
  • Colleges, universities, and professional schools: $51,530 or $24.77
  • General medical and surgical hospitals: $51,380 or $24.70
  • Specialty (except psychiatric and substance abuse) hospitals: $49,160 or $23.63

Interestingly, outpatient care centers offer the highest pay and the fifth-highest employment levels. This could be a lucrative industry for aspiring ophthalmic medical technicians to focus their job searches.

Rachel Drummond, MEd
Rachel Drummond, MEd Writer

Rachel Drummond has contributed insightful articles to since 2019, where she offers valuable advice and guidance for those pursuing careers in the healthcare field, combining her passion for education with her understanding of the critical role that healthcare professionals play in promoting physical and mental well-being.

Rachel is a writer, educator, and coach from Oregon. She has a master’s degree in education (MEd) and has over 15 years of experience teaching English, public speaking, and mindfulness to international audiences in the United States, Japan, and Spain. She writes about the mind-body benefits of contemplative movement practices like yoga on her blog, inviting people to prioritize their unique version of well-being and empowering everyone to live healthier and more balanced lives.