How Much Money Do Optometrists Earn?

Factors Affecting Optometrist Salaries

Annual eye exam by optometrist
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Optometrists examine the eyes and other parts of the visual system. They also diagnose and treat visual problems and manage diseases, injuries, and other disorders of the eyes. They prescribe eyeglasses or contact lenses as needed.

Duties of Optometrists

Optometrists typically do the following:

  • Perform vision tests and analyze results
  • Diagnose sight problems, such as nearsightedness or farsightedness, and eye diseases, such as glaucoma
  • Prescribe eyeglasses, contact lenses, and other visual aids, and if state law permits, medications
  • Perform minor surgical procedures to correct or treat visual or eye health issues
  • Provide treatments such as vision therapy or low-vision rehabilitation
  • Provide pre- and postoperative care to patients undergoing eye surgery—for example, examining a patient’s eyes the day after surgery
  • Evaluate patients for the presence of other diseases and conditions, such as diabetes or hypertension, and refer patients to other healthcare providers as needed
  • Promote eye and general health by counseling patients

Some optometrists spend much of their time providing specialized care, particularly if they are working in a group practice with other optometrists or physicians. For example, some optometrists mostly treat patients with only partial sight, a condition known as low vision. Others may focus on treating infants and children.

Optometrists promote eye health and counsel patients on how general health can affect eyesight. For example, they may counsel patients on how smoking cessation or weight loss can reduce vision problems.

Many optometrists own their practice and those who do may spend more time on general business activities, such as hiring employees, ordering supplies, and marketing their business.

Optometrists also may work as postsecondary teachers, do research in optometry colleges, or work as consultants in the eye care industry.

Salary

How much money optometrists earn on average depends on whether they are self-employed in their own business, or if they are a salaried employee.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average income for optometrists is $96,320, for salaried professionals. While salaried optometrists tend to earn more than self-employed ones initially, self-employed optometrists earn more over time.

The average salary for self-employed optometrists is about $175,329. Another factor in salary is group size: optometrists who are part of a mid-size group (3-5 practitioners) earn the highest salary on average, about $179,000.

Optometrists Vs. Ophthalmologists 

Optometrists should not be confused with ophthalmologists or dispensing opticians. Ophthalmologists are physicians who perform eye surgery and treat eye diseases in addition to performing eye exams and prescribing eyeglasses and contact lenses. For more information on ophthalmologists, see the physicians and surgeons profile. Dispensing opticians fit and adjust eyeglasses and, in some states, fill contact lens prescriptions that an optometrist or ophthalmologist has written.

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