Optometrists: Salary Overview
Optometrists diagnose and treat visual problems and disorders and illnesses of the eye.
If needed, they prescribe eyeglasses or contact lenses.
An optometrist’s job description typically includes performing visual tests and analyzing results, diagnosing sight problems, prescribing visual aids, performing minor surgical procedures, and providing pre and post-surgery care to patients.
In some states, optometrists are also allowed to prescribe medication.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for optometrists was $115,250 as of May 2019.
Salaries in this profession vary based on a variety of factors, including the optometrist’s level of experience, education, the region, and the industry of employment.
The top 10 percent earned more than $194,100 per year while the lowest 10 percent made less than $59,200.
Optometrist Salary by Industry
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, optometrists held about 42,100 jobs in 2018, most of them working in offices of optometrists.
The same report shows that approximately 10 percent of all optometrists were self-employed.
The mean annual wage for those who worked for offices of optometrists was $118,390 while those who worked for offices of physicians earned, on average, $138,410 per year.
The average annual wage was $118,030 per year for optometrists who worked for health and personal care stores and $154,770 for those employed by outpatient care centers.
The highest mean annual wage was reported by optometrists employed by offices of dentists.
This sector hired only a few optometrists but paid them, on average, with $166,620 per year- higher than the average for all industries.
In conclusion salaries for optometrists vary widely depending on the industry of employment and you may have a better chance at getting an above-average wage is you work for an outpatients care center or in a dentist’s office.
However, wages also vary depending on the optometrist’s level of experience and education.
As an entry-level employee, your salary will most likely be closer to the minimum for this profession and you will start earning more after getting a few years of experience.
Depending on the industry of employment, senior optometrists can make more than $150,000 a year.
The region of employment also plays an important role in determining how much an optometrist makes a year.
According to the BLS report, the highest average annual wage was reported by optometrists in North Dakota- a state where the mean for this profession was $174,290.
Higher-than-average wages were also reported in Vermont, West Virginia, Alaska, and Iowa.
Optometrists in Montana and Arkansas, on the other hand, reported annual average wages that were below the $100,000 mark.
BLS didn’t provide information about self-employed optometrists but according to the 2017 Income Survey published by reviewofoptometry.com, their earnings vary depending on the number of years of practice.
The survey shows that those with less than 10 years of practice earned, on average, $130,061 in 2016 while those with more than 30 years of practice earned $219,935, on average.
The average annual wage reported by self-employed optometrists with 11 to 20 years of experience was $177,573 while those with 21 to 30 years of practice earned, on average $178,493 per year.
Therefore, you may earn more as a self-employed optometrist but in this case, your earnings will also depend on your marketing abilities, the location of your practice, your reputation, and how many patients you have.
Bonuses and Cash Compensation
Along with a base salary, optometrists may also earn commissions, bonuses, and a share of the company’s profit.
According to a report published by payscale.com in July 2020, optometrists earned, on average, $6,141 a year in bonuses, $9,721 in commission, and $4,826 in profit sharing.
Additional benefits also vary depending on the optometrist’s experience, reputation, and the region of employment.
The same report shows that bonuses range between less than $1000 and more than $25,000 a year, commissions range between $1,000 and $39,000 and profit-sharing is between less than $1,000 and more than $28,000 a year.
* Based on information from the May 2021 salary report from the BLS. The figures represent accumulated data for all states of employment for Optometrists. BLS data represents averages and medians for workers at all levels of education and experience. This data doesn't represent starting salaries.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.