Optometrists are healthcare professionals who treat and manage visual problems. The salary of these professionals varies greatly depending on their years of experience and the state they live in. If you are interested in becoming an optometrist, you'll want to know how much money you can make in this career. In this article, we discuss what an optometrist is, their average salary in the U.S. and by state, as well as the requirements you will need to meet before you can become an optometrist.
What is an optometrist?
An optometrist is a primary healthcare professional that examines, diagnoses, treats and manages diseases relating to the eyes. They handle other disorders of the visual system relating to the eye such as the structures surrounding the eyes and chronic illness 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 analyze results
- Referring patients to other physicians or surgeons, as needed
- Providing vision therapy
The average optometrist salary
The salary for an optometrist will vary based on the healthcare facility they work for, their level of expertise and their geographical location. Here are the common average salary figures in the U.S. for optometrists:
The average salary in the U.S.: $121,050 per year
Some salaries range from $72,000 to $170,080 per year.
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Optometrist salary by state
The salary for optometrists will vary depending on the state you live in and their average cost of living. Here is a list of optometrist's average salary by state in the U.S.:
- Alabama: $116,890 per year
- Alaska: $134,040 per year
- Arizona: $126,130 per year
- Arkansas: $120,571 per year
- California: $139,344 per year
- Colorado: $131,190 per year
- Connecticut: $122,176 per year
- Delaware: $110,744 per year
- Florida: $120,682 per year
- Georgia: $95,986 per year
- Hawaii: $130,886 per year
- Idaho: $117,740 per year
- Illinois: $119,387 per year
- Indiana: $122,422 per year
- Iowa: $109,263 per year
- Kansas: $118,387 per year
- Kentucky: $105,272 per year
- Louisiana: $138,901 per year
- Maine: $134,293 per year
- Maryland: $122,037 per year
- Massachusetts: $124,890 per year
- Michigan: $116,913 per year
- Minnesota: $127,618 per year
- Mississippi: $112,907 per year
- Missouri: $102,537 per year
- Montana: $120,403 per year
- Nebraska: $114,395 per year
- Nevada: $106,946 per year
- New Hampshire: $116,465 per year
- New Jersey: $122,127 per year
- New Mexico: $125,372 per year
- New York: $131,740 per year
- North Carolina: $140,913 per year
- North Dakota: $120,403 per year
- Ohio: $140,913 per year
- Oklahoma: $111,406 per year
- Oregon: $79,462 per year
- Pennsylvania: $125,850 per year
- Rhode Island: $143,910
- South Carolina: $116,765 per year
- South Dakota: $106,785 per year
- Tennessee: $113,334 per year
- Texas: $113,732 per year
- Utah: $118,191 per year
- Vermont: $141,880 per year
- Virginia: $120,940 per year
- Washington: $133,232 per year
- West Virginia: $113,020 per year
- Wisconsin: $131,645 per year
- Wyoming: $105,723 per year
Related: Average Salary by Age
There are a few requirements prospective optometrists must meet before they can begin their careers. Here are some of the requirements to become an optometrist:
- Additional certifications
The minimum requirement for optometry school is an undergraduate degree from an accredited institution. It is recommended that individuals who wish to attend optometry school 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 for you to pass the optometry admission test and complete a Doctor of Optometry 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 O.D. degree, you may choose to enter a residency program for further specialized training in optometry. You will 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 choose not to complete a residency program, it can be helpful to complete an internship during or after your education is complete. This will assist you with the experience and skills you will need to apply for optometrist jobs after you graduate.
Every state requires optometrists to be licensed before they can begin practicing. Each state will have its own requirements. It is important to check these requirements before you apply for a license. The standard requirements across all states are an O.D. degree from an accredited school and you are required to complete and pass 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.
Optometrists who wish to obtain recognition for their excellence and knowledge in optometry may decide to become board certified by the American Board of Optometry.
Optometrist salary FAQ
You may have more questions about how you can become an optometrist and salary info. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions for more information:
What is the difference between an optometrist and an ophthalmologist?
Optometrists and ophthalmologists are different because optometrists are not considered medical doctors like ophthalmologists. Optometrists have limitations on what they can diagnose and treat. Ophthalmologists have attended additional years of medical school and they are healthcare physicians who specialize in optical care and optical surgery.
What skills do optometrists need to be successful in their positions?
Optometrists need to have these skills to be successful in their careers:
Attention to detail
Optometrists must pay attention to and record patient symptoms quickly and accurately. They must also manage paperwork and information regarding patient care. When they pay attention to detail, it will likely result in proper treatment and accurate medications and prescriptions.
Optometrists are required to analyze patient results and then choose the best course of treatment for a patient for optimal care.
Most of an optometrist's time is spent examining and interacting with patients. They should be at ease when interacting with patients and make them feel comfortable during the examination or treatment.
Optometrists must communicate clearly and openly with their patients and other staff members. Often optometrists must explain treatment and at-home care to patients.
Where do optometrists work?
Most optometrists work full-time and overtime. They often work weekends or evenings to accommodate their patients' needs. Most optometrists work in a stand-alone office that is not a part of a healthcare practice. However, they may also work in optical goods stores, doctor's offices or they may be self-employed and own their own practices.
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 will take three to four years and optometry school takes about four years. If an optometrist chooses to specialize, it will take an additional year for them to begin practicing optometry.