Optometrist Salary 



Career as an Optometrist


By Diane Turner

The average optometrist salary is directly influenced by the medical responsibilities that you will encounter on the job. These individuals will be responsible for performing vision tests on patients to check their sight and diagnose medical conditions that may impair their vision. They will also be called on to provide treatment or recommend rehabilitation that will help restore the vision. This will normally revolve around prescribing eyeglasses or contact lenses for patients, but it can also include prescribing medication or other medical treatment to help manage diseases that affect the eyes. These individuals will also be responsible for evaluating and providing care for those going into or coming out of eye surgery.

Some optometrists will perform very specialized care such as working with those that have a specific eye disorder or performing eye surgery. The salary of an optometrist working in these specialized fields tends to be higher than those that provide generalized care.

Much of the high rates associated with the average salary for an optometrist are associated with the high amount of training that is necessary to enter this field. Those wishing to work in optometry will need to earn a Doctor of Optometry (OD) from an accredited program. As of 2011, there were only 20 such programs in the country. Those that wish to enroll in these programs will need to earn high grades while earning their bachelor’s as well as a competitive score on their Optometry Admission Test or OAT.

An OD takes four years of study and a minimum one year residency to complete. After this point the individual will need to earn a license to practice from the state where they plan to work. This test is administered by the National Boards in Optometry. Some states have an additional examination process in addition to these national standards. You will also need to take additional coursework to maintain your license throughout the extent of your career.

Optometrist Average Salary

The average optometrist salary is $109,810.However, there are a number of factors that can have a huge impact on the optometrist average salary in a given area. The state where the optometrist is employed, the area where they are employed and the facility where they work will have a significant impact on the final salary they can expect to earn.

Optometrist Salary Factors and Influences

The average salary of an optometrist is highly influenced by the area where these individuals are employed. The highest paying nonmetropolitan areas tend to have salaries that are well above the nationwide average due to the increased demand for service.

Western North Carolina Average Salary: $201,810

Western Northwestern Ohio Average Salary: $185,270

Central Missouri Average Salary: $172,910

Northern Indiana Average Salary: $170,620

Eastern South Dakota Average Salary: $170,100

These areas are widely dispersed around the country, making it easier for those looking for employment in this field to find the tools they need to earn the employment they need. The top paying metropolitan areas are in similar areas of the country, creating an employment pattern optometrists should consider before entering the field.

Houma-Bayou-Cane-Thibodaux, LA Average Salary: $201,010

Fayetteville, NC Average Salary: $198,340

Toledo, OH Average Salary: $189,390

Augusta-Richmond County, GA Average Salary: $176,130

Miami-Miami Beach, FL Average Salary: $170,140

Sioux Falls, SD Average Salary: $169,390

Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX Average Salary: $168,660

Raleigh-Cary, NC Average Salary: $164,780

Greensboro-High Point, NC Average Salary: $163,950

Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, NC: $163,730

While these areas are dispersed around the country, there are several states that tend to hold several well-paying communities for those working in optometry. Much of this is tied to the type of facilities within these areas that provide optometry services for patients. Different medical facilities are known for offering more competitive salaries than others. Note the highest paying industries for optometrists below.

Average Salary for Offices of Physicians: $127,380

Average Salary for Outpatient Care Centers: $113,470

Average Salary for Offices of Other Health Practitioners: $107,860

Average Salary for Department Stores: $105,790

Average Salary for Health and Personal Care Stores: $101,560

These facilities generally offer optometry in addition to other services, making it easier for patients to stop in. The salary for an optometrist in more specialized areas tends to be lower, but there are also more jobs available in these positions. The areas with the highest employment levels for optometrists are:

Average Salary for Offices of Other Health Practitioners: $107,860

Average Salary for Offices of Physicians: $127,380

Average Salary for Health and Personal Care Stores: $101,560

Average Salary for Outpatient Care Centers: $113,470

Average Salary for Colleges, Universities and Professional Schools: $79,740

As you can see, the salaries in these facilities tend to be closer to the national average rather than offering a more competitive wage. This is largely due to the increased competition in these areas. To further illustrate this point, note the optometrist average salary for offices that have the highest concentration of optometrists on staff.

Average Salary for Offices of Other Health Practitioners: $107,860

Average Salary for Health and Personal Care Stores: $101,560

Average Salary for Offices of Physicians: $127,380

Average Salary for Outpatient Care Centers: $113,470

Average Salary for the Federal Executive Branch: $66,600

Once again the salaries are lower than the areas that offer more competition. These employers tend to hire a full staff of eye care specialists, decreasing the wage that each individual will earn on the job.

Optometrist Salary Compared To Related Fields

An optometrist’s average salary is at the higher end of the spectrum compared to other medical professionals.

Average Salary for an Optometrist: $109,810

Average Salary for Dispensing Opticians: $32,940

Average Salary for Podiatrists: $118,030

Average Salary for Dentists: $146,920

Average Salary for Veterinarians: $82,040

As you can see, other doctors that have a specialized field can earn a salary that is in the same range as those working in optometry. Those that do not have a specialty that requires them to earn a medical degree can expect to earn significantly less. Dispensing opticians, for example, will only be asked to help fit lenses that have already been prescribed by a medical professional, limiting the knowledge and training that is necessary to take on their responsibilities and therefore limiting the wages these individuals can expect to earn.

Optometrist Salary by State

The salary for an optometrist is greatly influenced by the area where these individuals plan to work. The highest paying states that offer positions for optometrists are not those that are typically associated with offering jobs in the medical field.

Optometrist Salary in Alaska: $160,080

Optometrist Salary in Connecticut: $154,710

Optometrist Salary in North Carolina: $142,800

Optometrist Salary in South Dakota: $138,480

Optometrist Salary in South Carolina: $129,460

The states that offer more competitive salaries tend to have smaller populations. This limits the amount of medical care facilities that are available to the public in these areas. The average optometrist will be expected to see a much larger group of patients compared to those that work in larger areas, which in turn increases the amount of money they can expect to make in a given year. This is further increased if the optometrist works in an area that offers substantial vision coverage with their health insurance policies. To further compare these statistics, note the optometrist salary by state for areas that are known for having the highest employment rates for this field.

Average Salary in California: $102,330

Average Salary in New York: $117,690

Average Salary in Texas: $95,810

Average Salary in Illinois: $108,590

Average Salary in Florida: $128,890

These states have noticeably higher populations than those listed above. This increases the number of positions available as well as the demand for care. The salary of an optometrist in an area that has several other vision care facilities available will be lower due to the increased competition. People will make a point of visiting offices that take their insurance or offer a lower rate for service, limiting what these individuals can charge. To further illustrate this point, compare these salaries to those states that have the highest concentration of optometrists.

Average Salary in Hawaii: $109,030

Average Salary in North Dakota: $118,020

Average Salary in Oklahoma: $103,570

Average Salary in South Dakota: $138,480

Average Salary in Montana: $87,580

Once again, these are states with a lower population. The high concentration is largely due to the fact that there is high demand for service but most of the population is gathered in specific cities within the state’s boarders, increasing the competition between them. The offices that offer less expensive service or a wider variety of eye care products are much more likely to make a better salary due to the increase in customers.

Optometrist Types of Salaries

By and large, there is not much variation amongst optometrists within the field. The general responsibilities for different positions translate to other areas across the board without much differentiation. This poses a serious benefit for those that find they need to relocate in order to seek the type of employment benefits they were hoping for.

Optometrist:Average Salary: $109,926

Optometrists will be responsible for examining a patient’s eyes to help detect vision issues and any abnormal conditions or diseases that may be contributing to their difficulties. They will also be responsible for prescribing any eyeglasses or contact lenses necessary to remedy their vision. In some cases, the optometrist will need to prescribe medication to treat illnesses that are affecting the eyes. Those hoping to work in this field will need to earn a Doctor of Optometry from an accredited optometry school. They must also pass their board exams at the national, state and regional levels. Most positions also ask for at least 2-4 years of experience in the field before these individuals can practice without supervision.

History of Optometrists

The earliest studies of optometric science can be dated back nearly 1000 years. Sir Joseph Needham published research indicating that the ancient Chinese created eyeglasses for those who were visually impaired. Marco Polo confirmed these accounts in his travel journals. Modern optometry is believed to have been founded in the 13th century when monks in Italy began making eyeglasses and spreading this science throughout Italy, the Netherlands and Germany. The science was further expanded in 1692 when William Molyneux published writings on how to properly fit and customize eyeglasses.

While the study of the workings of the eye and efforts to correct impaired vision has been around for centuries, this art was not seen as a profession in the United States until the early 20th century. At this point the idea of training physicians specifically in the science of treating conditions of the eye became a widespread idea and the field expanded throughout the country.

Optometrist Salary Outlook – Conclusion

The average salary of an optometrist is generally expected to increase in the recent future. The profession as a whole is expected to grow by approximately 33 percent by 2020. By comparison, the job market in general is only expected to see 14 percent growth in the same amount of time. This will create as many as 11,300 new jobs in the field because this field is quite specialized and relatively small compared to other diagnosing or treating professions in the medical industry.

The growth in the average optometrist salary is largely associated with the increasing elderly population found nationwide given the increasing age of those in the “baby boomer” bracket. As people age they are much more likely to experience vision trouble that will require corrective lenses. These individuals will need to see an optometrist to both diagnose and treat these conditions.

Chronic diseases such as diabetes that are becoming increasingly common in the United States also have a strong impact on a patient’s vision quality. As these diseases become more prevalent, more insurance companies are being called on to supply vision insurance for their patients. Even Medicare and Medicaid now offer some form of coverage to manage these conditions, which has never been seen before. As this growth in coverage is seen, more people are getting regular eye exams and purchasing new corrective lenses, which increases the salary an optometrist can expect to make.

In spite of this extensive amount of growth, the optometry field is still expected to remain fairly competitive. The high amount of education required to earn a position as an optometrist will remain high, as will the competition amongst schools that offer these programs. This will keep the salary of an optometrist at a more competitive level given the limited number of positions available. However, a large number of optometrists are expected to retire in the upcoming years, opening plenty of positions for those hoping to enter the field.