How Much Do Ophthalmic Medical Assistants Make?

Discover how much ophthalmic Medical assistants make in different parts of the United States and learn about the job outlook for this career.

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Job Description

Ophthalmic Medical Assistants work in the medical office of an ophthalmologist, performing both administrative and clinical tasks. Their primary responsibilities include greeting patients, scheduling appointments, updating medical records handling billing and insurance claims, and answering patients’ questions. They also perform diagnostic tests, assist during eye examinations and surgeries, and measure patients’ eyes for eyeglasses or contact lenses.


The majority of ophthalmic medical assistants work in ophthalmology offices and clinics. Their duties vary according to the size and type of the facility, but may include such tasks as patient history taking, eye examinations, contact lens training, testing visual acuity and intraocular pressure, administering eye medications, and removing sutures. Ophthalmic medical assistants may also be involved in administrative tasks such as scheduling appointments and maintaining patients’ records.


Ophthalmic medical assistants are an important part of the team of health care professionals who provide care for patients with eye disorders. They are specially trained to work closely with ophthalmologists, optometrists, and other members of the eye care team. Ophthalmic medical assistants perform a variety of tasks, including taking medical histories, measuring patients’ visual acuity, testing patients’ eye movements, and performing other diagnostic tests. They also provide patient education and instruction on the use of eyeglasses, contact lenses, and other vision devices.

In May 2019, the median annual salary for ophthalmic medical assistants was $33,860, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The lowest 10 percent earned less than $23,660, while the highest 10 percent earned more than $48,430.

Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for ophthalmic medical assistants is bright, with a projected growth rate of 29% from 2019 to 2029. This is much faster than the average growth rate for all occupations, which is only 4%. The demand for ophthalmic medical assistants will continue to rise as the population ages and as more people seek out vision care services.

Education and Training

In order to become an ophthalmic medical assistant you will need to complete a formal education and training program. These programs are typically offered at community colleges, technical schools, and some universities. They usually last one to two years and result in a certificate or associate’s degree.

Some employers may require ophthalmic medical assistants to have certification in CPR and basic life support. Certification programs are usually offered by the American Red Cross and take about six hours to complete.


Certification is not required to work as an ophthalmic medical assistant but many employers prefer to hire candidates who have earned certification from a professional organization, such as the Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology (JCAHPO). Certification demonstrates that a medical assistant has the knowledge and skills necessary to perform the job effectively.


Skills that Affect Ophthalmic Medical Assistant Salary
Ophthalmic medical assistants require both clinical skills to help patients and administrative skills to keep the office running smoothly. Some of the skills that may affect salary include:
-Clinical skills. Ophthalmic medical assistants must be able to take patient histories, measure vision, test eyes for glaucoma and other disorders and assist the ophthalmologist during exams and surgery.
-Communication skills. Ophthalmic medical assistants must be able to communicate effectively with patients, who may be experiencing a wide range of emotions, from anxiety about an impending surgery to joy at the prospect of improved vision. They also must be able to understand instructions from the ophthalmologist and relay those instructions accurately to patients.
-Computer skills. Many ophthalmology offices use electronic health records (EHRs), and ophthalmic medical assistants must be able to input data accurately and retrieve it when needed. In some cases, they also may need to create reports or maintain websites.
-Interpersonal skills. Ophthalmic medical assistants often are the first point of contact for patients, so it’s important that they be able to put people at ease and answer questions tactfully. They also need to be able to work well with co-workers, since they often are part of a team that includes nurses, opticians and receptionists.

Work Schedule

Most ophthalmic medical assistants work full time. Those who work for ophthalmologists who offer surgical services may often work evening and weekend hours to accommodate patients’ schedules.

Pros and Cons

There are pros and cons to being an ophthalmic medical assistant. On the plus side, this is a career that pays relatively well. The median salary for ophthalmic medical assistants is $34,410 per year. And, with experience, you can earn up to $48,120 per year.

On the downside, this career requires you to have a fair amount of education and training. You’ll need to complete a formal educational program and become certified before you can work as an ophthalmic medical assistant. In addition, you’ll need to keep up with continuing education requirements in order to maintain your certification.

Find an Ophthalmic Medical Assistant Program

An ophthalmic medical assistant is a vital member of an eye care team. They perform a wide range of tasks, from scheduling appointments to administering eye exams and patient education. Ophthalmic medical assistants must have excellent dexterity, as they often work with delicate instruments and patients’ sensitive eyes. If you’re detail-oriented, patient, and interested in a medical career that offers good job prospects and above-average pay, then an ophthalmic medical assistant program may be the right fit for you.

In order to become an ophthalmic medical assistant, you must complete an accredited ophthalmic medical assistant program. These programs are typically offered at community colleges and take one to two years to complete. Upon completion of an accredited program, you will be eligible to sit for the Certified Ophthalmic Assistant (COA) Exam administered by the Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology (JCAHPO). Once you pass the COA Exam, you will be a certified ophthalmic medical assistant and eligible for state licensure (if required).

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for ophthalmic medical assistants was $35,280 in 2019.1 Salaries for ophthalmic medical assistants can vary based on experience, education, geographic location, and employer type. The BLS reports that the top 10% of earners in this occupation made more than $51,470 per year in 2019, while the bottom 10% earned less than $24,950 per year.1

Job prospects for ophthalmic medical assistants are expected to be good over the next decade. The BLS projects that employment of ophthalmic medical assistants will grow 7% from 2019 to 2029—faster than the average for all occupations.1 The aging Baby Boomer population is expected to need more vision care as they age, which will contribute to job growth in this occupation. In addition, advances in vision care technology are resulting in more procedures that require the assistance of an ophthalmic medical assistant

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