What is a Optometrist

Optometrist, also known as eye doctors, is a health care professional who specializes in the examination, diagnosis and treatment of diseases and disorders related to the eye. For more on job description, please visit our optometrist job description page.

Work Environment

Majority of optometrists work in offices of optometrists. However, you may find some working in offices of physicians, outpatient centers, etc. Optometrists often spend a large part of their day in rooms with no natural light. Physical examination of patient’s eyes requires them to bend and stand for prolong periods of time.

Work Schedule

Optometrists often work regular business hours, however, this is largely dependent on the operational hours of the clinic they work. Full time hours ranging from 35 to 40 hours are expected. In community practice especially larger chains, optometrists may also work evenings and weekends to match their patient’s availability.

Mean Annual Optometrist Salary

The mean annual optometrist salary is $109,810. The mean salary is calculated by adding all the wages within the occupation and divid that value by the total number of employees. Lowest 10% of this occupation makes less than $52,590 and the top 10% makes over $184,530.

Optometrist Salary: Quick Summary

2012 Mean Salary
$109,810 per year
$52.80 per hour
Top 10% Salary$184,530 per year
$88.72 per hour
Bottom 10% Salary$52,590 per year
$25.28 per hour
Number of Jobs, 201229,180

Optometrist Job Outlook and Prospects

The job prospect of optometrists is expected to be excellent. There are 33,100 jobs in this field in 2012. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects this number to increase to 41,200 by 2022 meaning that about 8,100 new jobs will be created in 10 years. This number represents an employment growth of 24 percent. Some factors that will cause this increase are:

  • increase in the elderly population
  • increase in the number of people with chronic diseases like diabetes
  • increase in the number of insurance plans that provide eye treatment coverage

What Affects The Optometrist Salary

The main factors impacting optometrist salary involve the area of practice, with areas that have a higher cost of living (such as larger cities) bringing the benefit of a higher salary; the type of practice the optometrist works in, with private practices showing an increase in salary; and experience and specialization.

While the average optometrist salary runs at $109,810, the average for Alaska, with its higher cost of living, is $160,080, an increase of more than $50,000. Connecticut averages $154,710 though, and North Carolina rounds off the top three at $142,800.

While a private practice brings added costs and work related to running the practice and paying salaries, it also includes added revenue from additional services and eye care products sold to patients; revenue is not tied to a monthly salary, as it would be in a hospital or large office situation, but instead is based on the number of patients and their needs.

Some specializations exist within optometry, including sports vision and vision therapy; as there is a dearth of experienced practitioners in these fields, this can lead to significant gains for optometrist salary.

Education and Specialization

There are some specializations possible in optometry; those mentioned, being vision therapy and sports vision, have very few qualified practitioners. This specialization coupled with low supply and good demand, mean that such focuses are an excellent point for increasing optometrist salary.

Extended education for vision problems is another means of improving salary; cataracts, retinal issues, and other such complex dysfunctions mean consultation fees and higher base salary for the optometrist.

Optometrists are all required to graduate from a four year post-secondary program before they become licensed. However, some may choose to extend their education and become specialized in a particular field. Those who specialize are often paid an average of $20,000 or more than general optometrists.

Experience and Position

Experience in the position is one of the best ways to see a salary increase, especially for those optometrists who choose to work in a health institution or a company related to the field (such as an eyeglasses manufacturer). While an initial salary may be in the $70,000 to $90,000 range. After five years of experience, the individual may get better offers from major eye care groups or premiere hospitals.


Optometrists who open their own practices, or who work in the offices of other physicians, have the most lucrative careers, averaging $127,380. Outpatient care centers and the offices of other health practitioners are other well-paid positions, averaging $113,470 and $107,860, respectively, however physician offices clearly outstrip other potential positions for salary purposes.


Those areas with a higher cost of living, such as Alaska, are the ideal ones for an optometrist. As mentioned, Alaska has the highest salaries, beating the next-highest by nearly $6,000. Houma-Bayou Cane-Thibodaux area in Louisiana has the highest metropolitan area salary, though, with an average of $201,010.

Optometrist Salary: Top 5

Top Paying Metropolitan AreasTop Paying StatesTop Paying IndustriesStates with Highest Employment Level
Houma-Bayou Cane-Thibodeaux, LA: $201,010Alaska: $160,080Offices of Physicians: $127,380California: (3,550 jobs) $102,330
Fayetteville, NC: $198,340Connecticut: $154,710Outpatient Care Centers: $113,470New York: (2,140 jobs) $117,690
Toledo,OH: $189,390North Carolina: $142,800Offices of Other Health Practitioners: $107,860Texas: (2,110 jobs) $95,810
Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC: $176,130South Dakota: $138,480Department Stores: $105,790Illinois: (1,490 jobs) $108,590
Miami, FL: $170,140South Carolina: $129,460Health and Personal Care Stores: $101,560Florida: (1,320 jobs) $128,890

optometrist salary state by state