The 2013 ATPO Salary Survey looks rosy, until you dig a little deeper

slv2ATPO and JCAHPO have published “The 2013 National Salary & Benefits Report for Ophthalmic Medical Personnel”. This survey is something that these organizations conduct every 2 years.  Each survey is a snapshot of the salary level of a segment of the OMP population. I call this a snapshot because it is a limited statistical sampling with some caveats.  However, the fact that we have some history gives us some insight into salary trends.

The survey was offered to a population of OMPs that are in the database of these organizations. The survey invitation was sent via email and the survey was administered on a website. Over 26,000 invitations were sent out and they received 3488 valid responses, which is a return of about 13%. The average age of the respondents was 44 and the majority had more than 10 years of experience in the field. Of course, this tells us that the results are skewed toward the salary of older, more experienced OMPs. Therefore, these figures by no means represent entry level or early career pay levels.

As also shown in previous studies, this study states that, “compensation increases with metropolitan (area) size, years of experience in ophthalmology, the size of the practice, and level of education.”

On the 2013 survey, the average salaries of the respondents were as follows (rounded to the nearest 1K):

COA®: $50K
COT®: $60K
COMT®: $71K

Comparisons to previous surveys are as follows:

2007 survey: $44K
2009 survey: $48K
2011 survey: $43K
2013 survey: $50K

2007 survey: $52K
2009 survey: $57K
2011 survey: $53K
2013 survey: $60K

2007 survey: $65K
2009 survey: $68K
2011 survey: $60K
2013 survey: $71K

What do these trends tell us? If you look at the jump between 2011 and 2013, you might feel pretty good about where OMP pay is headed.  However, consider that there was a significant downtrend between 2009 and 2011, at the time of the “great recession”.

Let’s look at technician salary from 2007 to 2013, which went from $52K to $60K over that 6 year period. According to the government, inflation has averaged 2% a year over the last 10 years. Therefore, $58.4K in 2013 dollars is equivalent to $52K in 2007 dollars. This means that real wages for this “average” technician have only increased $1.6K or about 3% in the past 6 years. That’s not 3% per year, that’s 3% total over the past 6 years. At least the profession is keeping up with inflation, so far.

The message from the survey is pretty clear, if you want higher (real) pay, get certified at a higher level.

COA Exam Prep Course
COT Exam Prep Course
COMT Exam Prep Course

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Paraoptometrics can get CE credits on

hcwAccording to the American Optometric Association website,, certified paraoptometrics (CPO), certified paraoptometric assistants (CPOA), and certified paraoptometric technicians (CPOT) can now use up to 9 JCAHPO approved CE credits toward certification and recertification. A total of 18 credits is needed for recertification and at least 9 credits must be CPC approved. The website provides JCAHPO approved CE courses.

Here is a quote from the website:

“The CPC CE approval requirement of eighteen hours of continuing education is in effect. Beginning with the 2013 certification renewal, paraoptometrics will be required to submit a minimum of nine hours of education that has been approved by CPC; the remaining nine credits may be a combination of education that has received approval from ABO, NCLE, JCAHPO, or COPE.”

Follow this link for more information:

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Stargardt’s images using the Optos wide angle retina camera

Stargardts_OD_FA_200These striking images of Stargardt’s disease were taken with the Optos wide angle retina camera. The color image was taken at the 100 degree setting. The fluorescein angiography images were taken at the 100 and 200 degree settings.

Stargardt’s is an inherited juvenile macular degeneration which is usually diagnosed before age 20. Central vision is gradually lost with no loss of peripheral vision. The progress of the disease is variable, with 50% having a visual acuity of 20/200 or worse by age 50.

Currently there is no treatment for Stargardt’s disease.

Stargardts_OD_color Stargardts_OD_FA_100

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How to swat a fly.

ImageLet’s use our knowledge of eye anatomy and physiology to improve our fly swatting ability.

One look at a fly will tell you that the eye of a fly is not much like ours. First of all, fly eyes take up a lot of real estate on the fly head. All the better to see you with, my dear. The fly can see a full 360 degrees front to back and about 270 degrees north to south.

ImageUnlike our eye, the fly eye is a compound eye in that it is made up of many, many tiny lenses. The electron microscope has shown that each of these lenses is connected to its own set of neurosensory cells.  Experiments have shown that these cells are part of a very fast sensory processing system.  Fly visual acuity is not that great (think big pixels), but motion detection is fantastic.

The fly is very good at detecting the movement of lines (the edge of a fly swatter) across its visual field. The fly brain calculates the speed and direction of a line (or lines) across the visual field and then it chooses a an appropriate direction in which to obtain escape velocity.

If you move a fly swatter or your hand directionally across the visual field of a fly, you don’t stand much of a chance. Even if you are very fast, the reflexes of the fly are faster. Some have suggested that they best way to swat is to try and predict which way the fly will exit and then aim your swat in that direction to intercept the fly. This is sort of like creating your own missile defense system.  The problem is that you have to be accurate in your prediction, which is difficult because the fly is small, there are 360 directions in which the fly can go, and your swatter only covers about 45 of them.

ImageFortunately, we can use the physiology of the fly visual system against it. The fly is unable to identify a particular threat. It does not know a fly swatter from a door. All it detects is motion.  If you move the swatter (or your hand) slowly toward the fly in a perpendicular fashion, you will minimize apparent motion across the fly visual field. When you get close to the fly, the motion can be accelerated to swat speed, keeping the same perpendicular track. What the fly will see in the visual field is a set of lines moving outward in all directions at the same rate of speed as the object grows larger in the visual field, but there is very little movement across the visual field. This creates confusion in the fly as to which way to escape.  A moment of indecision is created and you have your chance.

Try it the next time a fly lands on your leg. The technique works better with your hand (yuck) than it does with a fly swatter or a newspaper, because you have more control with your bare hand (or you can use a glove!).

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There is still time to take the 2013 ATPO salary survey, but hurry.

ImageIf you are an ophthalmic assistant, technician, or technologist (certified or not), please take a few minutes to complete an online salary survey that is compiled by ATPO (Association of Technical Personnel in Ophthalmology).

This survey is compiled every two years and it serves as an important resource for ophthalmic practices and for the individual assistant or technician. The survey gives us a broad range of information including:

  • Salary of the average assistant, technician, or technologist.
  • Salary ranges for the same.
  • Salary comparisons for regions of the country and practice size.
  • Benefits comparisons.
  • Job responsibility comparisons.

So take a few minutes and contribute some useful information about your profession. The survey closed on August 23rd. Here is the link:

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JCAHPO (finally) converts to new COT exam content areas.

cbrThe Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology has at long last converted to the new content areas for the ophthalmic technician certification exam.

What does this mean for all you COAs out there? Did the exam get easier or harder? In general, that is hard to sort out, because difficulty depends more upon question structure than it does on content.

More specifically, I think the exam has become easier for many folks, because all of the optics content areas are gone. Does this mean that there will be no optics questions on the exam? Mmm, no. There are many optics related questions that can be pulled from the current set of content areas and sub-areas. Lensometery, keratometry, retinoscopy, and refractometry come to mind.

However, never fear COAs. The ophthalmic technician certification exam prep course has been updated for the new content areas, including “Ace the Optics”.

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