An optometrist assistant performs both administrative and clinical duties to help an optometrist treat clients for diseases, injuries and afflictions of the eyes. Her duties are likely to include preparing patients for eye examinations and vision therapy procedures, performing routine tests such as color and depth perception, scheduling patient appointments, documenting case histories and maintaining a client database. She may also assist in the fabrication and adjustment of eyeglasses and contact lenses. Her salary reflects her auxiliary status and varies according to her employment situation.
In 2009, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics published its latest figures concerning national employment and wages. It listed the mean annual salary for a medical assistant--a classification that includes optometrist assistants--as $29,450. The data it synthesized also showed that the median 50 percent of earners in the profession secured an average wage of $28,650. The top ten percent of earners received $39,970, and the lowest-earning ten percent achieved a mean yearly pay rate of $20,750.
Pay by Industry
The survey produced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics also presented wage figures broken down by industry sector. An optometrist assistant working for a scientific or research development service received an average salary of $33,810 as of May 2009, while an individual employed by a local government agency was in line for a wage totalling $31,900 a year. Outpatient care centers and the offices of physicians offered comparable levels of pay--$29,830 and $29,810 respectively--just below that offered by general medical and surgical hospitals--$30,830.
Pay by State
The Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows how salary levels vary between states. District of Columbia and Alaska promise the best rewards--$37,790 and $36,400 respectively--while Massachusetts and Connecticut offer similar levels of pay--$34,490 and $34,200 respectively. Among the lower paying states, Arizona was listed at $30,070, Florida at $28,780 and Michigan at $28,460.
Pay by Metropolitan Area
Two areas in California top the table for optometrist assistant salaries on the metropolitan level. The Vallejo, Fairfield area is listed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as offering an average salary of $43,010, while Salinas offers $40,970. Barnstaple, Massachusetts, is not far behind, averaging $40,690. Yuba City, California, and Muncie, Indiana, offer similar levels of pay--$27,950 and $27,240 respectively--while the McAllen, Edinburg, Mission area of Texas is among the lowest-paying locales, averaging $21,720.
According to predictions made by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national growth rate for all occupations is expected to be somewhere between seven and thirteen percent during the period from 2008 to 2018. Over the same time the BLS predicts that job opportunities for medical assistants of all specialisms, including optometry, will grow by as much as 34 percent. Technical advances in medicine and a growing population are cited as primary motivations for the increased demand. As a result, optometrist assistants should continue to receive competitive rates of pay.