How Much Do Optometrists Make? Salary and Career FAQs

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated June 28, 2022 | Published February 25, 2020

Updated June 28, 2022

Published February 25, 2020

Optometrists are health care professionals who treat and manage visual problems. Because of their specialized training and skills, this career can provide you with a lucrative salary. Learning about this role, including how much you can make, may help you decide whether it’s the right career for you. 

In this article, we discuss what an optometrist is, their average salary, the requirements to pursue this career and other common questions about optometrists. 

Related: Salary calculation tool by Indeed

What is an optometrist?

An optometrist is a primary health care professional who examines, diagnoses, treats and manages diseases relating to the eyes. They work with other disorders of the visual system relating to the eye, such as the structures surrounding the eyes and chronic illnesses that affect sight or vision. Some of their key responsibilities include:

  • Diagnosing issues with eyesight

  • Prescribing contact lenses, glasses and other medications

  • Conducting vision tests and analyzing results

  • Referring patients to other physicians or surgeons, as needed

  • Providing vision therapy

Read more: Learn About Being an Optometrist

Average optometrist salary

According to Indeed data, optometrists earn an average salary of $147,511 per year. This figure may vary based on employer, expertise, specialties and location. Common benefits include 401(k) matching, professional development assistance and paid time off.

Related: How To Negotiate Your Salary (13 Tips With Examples)

Optometrist salary by state

Here’s a list of average salaries by the state for optometrists. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the link provided.

  • Alabama: $185,819 per year

  • Alaska: $176,014 per year

  • Arizona: $127,118 per year

  • Arkansas: $220,564 per year

  • California: $276,777 per year

  • Colorado: $136,889 per year

  • Connecticut: $366,806 per year

  • Delaware: $137,574 per year

  • Florida: $321,685 per year

  • Georgia: $161,036 per year

  • Hawaii: $116,113 per year

  • Idaho: $118,152 per year

  • Illinois: $123,935 per year

  • Indiana: $384,394 per year

  • Iowa: $412,962 per year

  • Kansas: $372,150 per year

  • Kentucky: $127,195 per year

  • Louisiana: $156,973 per year

  • Maine: $127,566 per year

  • Maryland: $598,342 per year

  • Massachusetts: $416,451 per year

  • Michigan: $607,974 per year

  • Minnesota: $621,269 per year

  • Mississippi: $450,388 per year

  • Missouri: $115,419 per year

  • Montana: $139,110 per year

  • Nebraska: $144,656 per year

  • Nevada: $281,088 per year

  • New Hampshire: $150,998 per year

  • New Jersey: $156,326 per year

  • New Mexico: $438,066 per year

  • New York: $330,844 per year

  • North Carolina: $712,175 per year

  • North Dakota: $161,553 per year

  • Ohio: $162,580 per year

  • Oklahoma: $156,117 per year

  • Oregon: $156,117 per year

  • Pennsylvania: $176,045 per year

  • Rhode Island: $143,567 per year

  • South Carolina: $613,308 per year

  • South Dakota: $130,358 per year

  • Tennessee: $796,159 per year

  • Texas: $140,894 per year

  • Utah: $204,444 per year

  • Vermont: $168,533 per year

  • Virginia: $409,030 per year

  • Washington: $145,744 per year

  • West Virginia: $803,162 per year

  • Wisconsin: $136,374 per year

  • Wyoming: $126,646 per year

Related: How To Determine a Salary

Optometrist requirements

There are a few requirements prospective optometrists must meet before they can begin their careers, including:

1. Education

The minimum requirement for optometry school is an undergraduate degree from an accredited institution. Many admissions requirements want people who wish to attend optometry school to obtain their bachelor's degree in pre-med or another biological science. The required courses include chemistry, physics, biology, English and mathematics.

The next required educational step is to pass the optometry admission test and complete a Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree program. This program includes hands-on clinical experience and core classroom instruction. The courses include instruction in anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, visual science and optics.

Read more: What Is an Optometrist Degree? (With 10 Steps To Get a Degree)

2. Training

After you receive an OD degree, you may choose to enter a residency program for further specialized training in optometry. You can gain classroom and clinical experience under the supervision of a professional optometrist. Specializations you can complete in residency programs include family practice, pediatric or geriatric optometry, low vision rehabilitation and ocular disease.

If you don’t complete a residency program, consider completing an internship during or after your education is complete. This can assist you with the experience and skills to apply for optometrist jobs after you graduate.

Related: How To Become an Optometrist

3. License

Every state requires optometrists to have a license before they can begin practicing. Each state has its requirements, so it’s important to check these requirements before you apply for a license. The standard requirements across all states are an OD degree from an accredited school and passing all sections of the National Board of Examiners in Optometry exam. Some states may require you to take a clinical exam or an exam on optometry laws.

Related: 13 Pros and Cons of Being an Optometrist (Plus Job Duties)

FAQs about optometrists 

Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about becoming an optometrist:

What’s the difference between an optometrist and an ophthalmologist?

Optometrists and ophthalmologists are different because optometrists aren’t medical doctors. Optometrists have limitations on what they can diagnose and treat. Ophthalmologists attend additional years of medical school, and they’re health care physicians who specialize in optical care and optical surgery.

Read more: OD vs. MD: How Do Optometrists and Ophthalmologists Differ?

What skills help optometrists succeed?

Optometrists often have these skills to succeed in their careers:

  • Attention to detail: Optometrists pay attention to and record patient symptoms quickly and accurately, and they manage paperwork and information regarding patient care. When they pay attention to detail, it can result in proper treatment and accurate medications and prescriptions.

  • Decision-making: Optometrists analyze patient results and then choose the best course of treatment for a patient for optimal care.

  • Interpersonal: Most of an optometrist's time comprises of examining and interacting with patients. They often are at ease when interacting with patients and make them feel comfortable during the examination or treatment.

  • Communication: Optometrists communicate clearly and openly with their patients and other staff members. These professionals often explain treatment and at-home care to patients.

Related: Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills: What's the Difference?

What’s the work environment for an optometrist?

Optometrists often work full-time and overtime, and they work weekends or evenings to accommodate their patients' needs. Many optometrists work in a standalone office that’s not a part of a health care practice. However, they may work in optical goods stores or doctor's offices, or they can be self-employed and operate a practice.

Related: Optician vs. Optometrist: Definitions and Differences

How long does it take to become an optometrist?

On average, it takes about seven to nine years to complete an optometry education. The undergraduate degree takes three to four years, and optometry school takes about four years. If an optometrist chooses to specialize, it can take an additional year for them to begin practicing optometry.

Related: How Long Does It Take To Become an Optometrist and Other Optometry FAQs

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