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