Most ophthalmic medical assistants work in physicians' offices as opposed to hospitals and other health-care facilities. However, certified ophthalmic assistants may have access to more opportunities and higher salaries than their counterparts who lack certification.
Ophthalmic medical assistants help ophthalmologists provide eye care to patients. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that ophthalmic assistants are specialized workers who usually have more job duties than other types of medical assistants. For example, ophthalmic assistants handle eye tests, assess patients' vision and show patients how to use and care for contact lenses. Some ophthalmic assistants also help ophthalmologists during surgery. The BLS includes ophthalmic assistants' wages in its salary data for all medical assistants. Bureau data show the mean annual wage for medical assistants was $29,760 in 2010.
Medical assistants who work at ophthalmologists' offices and other physicians' offices earned a mean annual salary of $30,110 in 2010, based on BLS data. Assistants who worked at general-care hospitals that year earned a mean wage that was slightly higher at $30,770. However, dentists are among the top-paying employers for medical assistants. In 2010, assistants who worked at dentists' offices earned a mean annual salary of $36,880. Assistants earned even higher wages that year at psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals, where the mean wage was $39,220.
The BLS lists physicians' offices among places that employ the largest number of ophthalmic assistants and other medical assistants. More than 322,000 medical assistants worked at physicians' offices in 2010. General-care hospitals also are among industries that have the highest employment levels for medical assistants, but far fewer assistants work at hospitals. Just over 65,600 assistants worked at general-care hospitals in 2010. The BLS predicts nearly 164,000 additional jobs will be available for medical assistants through 2018 as demand for their services grows.
Top-paying states for medical assistants in 2010 included Alaska and Connecticut, where assistants earned mean annual salaries of $37,750 and $34,290, respectively. Certified assistants may be able to claim the highest wages for their occupation. Certification for ophthalmic assistants is available through the Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology. The BLS indicates that employers usually want assistants who have formal training in their field. Therefore, ophthalmic assistants who have experience and a certification for their specialty will likely have the best future job opportunities.