Nearly everyone knows someone who need glasses or other corrective lenses, but who are the professionals that help patients with eye issues? Optometrists are the answer. They are the professionals that examine, diagnose, treat, and manage visual disorders, eye diseases, and injuries. Want to know how much optometrists make? We will go over optometrist salary in this article.
What is the salary of an optometrist? Currently, the annual average salary for optometrists is $113,010 and the monthly average salary is $9417. The top 10% of individuals in the occupation are earning around $187,199 while the starting wage can be as low as $52,270. The top paying states are Alaska, Connecticut, Oklahoma, New Mexico and North Dakota.
Salary can fluctuate depending on many different factors including level of education, amount of experience, industry, and company size or location. Most work full time and even sometimes evening or weekend hours to accommodate patients. Over half of all optometrists worked in their own practices with much of the rest working in physician offices, health stores, outpatient centers or educational services. The top paying industries on an annual basis are physician offices ($133,580), hospitals ($128,580), outpatient care centers ($119,340), other health practitioner offices ($108,460), and department stores ($105,350).
Optometrist Job Description
Optometrists are independent medical professionals that hold an OD, but they are not physicians. They are responsible for various tasks that include performing vision tests/analyzing the results, diagnosing sight problems, prescribing treatments (i.e. glasses, contact lenses, medications, etc.), provide pre and post op care to surgery patients, evaluate patients for presence of diseases and refer them to other specialists, promote eye health through patient counseling, etc. However, they spend most of their time testing the vision systems of their patients to determine any issues with sight and then prescribe appropriate treatments.
Some may spend much of their time providing special care, especially if they are working in a group practice. For instance, some may focus on treating patients with low vision or children. Many optometrists own their own practice and can also spend time on business activities such as hiring, ordering supplies, or marketing. They may also work as teachers, do research in universities, or work as consultants.
They should not be confused with ophthalmologists or opticians. Ophthalmologists are doctors that perform surgery on eyes and treat other eye diseases with glasses and contact lens prescriptions. Opticians fit and adjust glasses and in some states fulfill contact lens prescriptions that an optometrist of ophthalmologist writes.
Over half of all optometrists work in their own practices in an office setting. They are typically clean, well-it, and comfortable. Most work 40 hours a week with a few working weekends and evenings to accommodate patients. Emergency calls used to be uncommon; however, they are on the rise with new laws that have expanded optometrists’ duties to include prescribing medications.
Those that work solo in a practice or even with one other partner tend to work longer hours than average because they have to tend to admin duties in addition to their medical ones. While optometrists tend to work 40 hours a week they see patients only about 38 hours per week with the last two hours spent on the business aspects of practices.
Other popular industries they work in include physician offices, personal care stores, outpatient care centers, and education services with various branches of the government.
How to become an Optometrist
To become an optometrist individuals first have to complete a bachelor’s degree in a related field such as biology, chemistry, or physiology. This typically takes about four years and can cost $8,000-$57,000 per year in tuition. Once they graduate they can apply for Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) programs which usually include passing the Optometry Admissions Test (OAT). The OAT tests applicants in four subject areas: science, reading comprehension, physics, and quantitative reasoning.
These degrees take about four years to complete and cost $19,000-$52,000 a year. There are 17 accredited O.D. programs with courses including biology, chemistry, physics, English, math, etc. The programs combine classroom work with supervised clinic experience. Specific classes in anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, optics, visual science, and the diagnosis and treatment of visual diseases/disorders are a part of required curriculums.
After graduation some optometrists undergo a one year residency to get advanced training in a specialty such as family practice, low vision care, pediatric optometry, geriatric optometry, or ocular disease.
All states require optometrists to be licensed. They have to complete all sections of the National Board of Examiners in Optometry. Some states may require a candidate to pass an additional clinical exam or an exam on law. In order to renew any license O.D.s have to take continuing education periodically. The optometry board in each state can provide more specifics on requirements. Board certification by the American Board of Optometry is optional, but shows that an individual has an advanced level of knowledge.
By 2022 employment opportunities for optometrists is projected to grow 24% which is faster than for all other occupations. But because the occupation is small, the fast growth rate will only result in about 8,000 new jobs over ten years.
Vision problems tend to occur much later in life and as such an aging population will require more optometrists. The number of people with chronic diseases such as diabetes is also on the rise which will increase the demand for optometrists. Diseases like diabetes is linked to increased rates of eye conditions like retinopathy (can lead to blindness). More optometrists will be needed to monitor, treat, and refer individuals with chronic conditions.
Additionally, there are more people, especially children, who have vision or eye care insurance which provides them at least some vision or eye care coverage due to the new federal legislation. This means that more optometrists will be needed to provide services to these increasing populations with eye care insurance.
Opticians help fit glasses and contact lenses to patients according to prescriptions written by ophthalmologists and optometrists. They also help customers decide which frames or contact lenses to purchase. Some work in stores that sell glasses, contact lenses, visual aids, or other optical goods. Others work in department stores or part of an optometry group. They need a high school diploma and on the job training. Some states require a license. Average annual pay is $33,330.
Dentists diagnose and treat problems with patients’ teeth, gums, and mouth. They provide advice and treatment plans for the various issues. Most work in their own practice either alone or with a small staff. Licensure is required in all states. They must pass a written and practical exam in addition to holding a degree from an accredited dental school. Average annual wage is $149,310.