The Eyes On Eyecare Optometrist Salary Calculator uses data from surveys conducted in 2020 and 2021 along with supplemental data to provide accuracy. This data will be continuously updated as new information is collected and published.
To use this tool, first identify the filters you wish to use:
- US State
- Years of experience
- Practice setting
Then, identify the pay period to display averages by hourly wage, per diem, or annual salary. The calculator automatically displays the average annual salary, along with the median, and mode, of all optometrists in the whole US within this data set.
A keen interest in the eye coupled with the desire to help others and make a positive impact on the world are the reasons most optometrists will give for choosing the field. However, as with any profession, compensation is a key consideration.
But with the current challenges facing healthcare workers, crippling student loan debt, and the increase in living cost, salary plays a more critical role than ever when deciding to join—or remain in—the eyecare field. In our recent Eyes On Eyecare 2021 Optometrist Report, we gleaned information from 512 employed optometrists, 173 practice owners, and 23 optometry students on several aspects of the current state of optometry, including optometry salaries.
So, exactly how much are optometrists making today? Exactly what influences the average optometry salary? And how happy are today’s optometrists with the paychecks they are bringing home?
What is the average optometrist salary?
In the United States, the average optometrist earns $141,400 per year.
Employed optometrists in 2021 received an average salary of $132,524. For practice owners, this number rose to $174,106.
Over the last decade, the average optometrist starting salary has increased from $86,875 in 2000 to $109,000 in 2020.
Factors that influence optometrist salary
Current salaries from our respondents ranged from below $60,000 to more than $250,000, which leaves a wide gap between earners. After looking at all the data, we found a number of factors play into how much an optometrist can expect to make. Among the most significant were location, practice setting, experience, education, and, unfortunately, gender.
Location, location, location
Where an optometrist chooses to practice has a significant bearing on the average optometrist salary they can expect; average optometrist salaries vary considerably by state, region, and even city. However, the results may surprise you. States within the same region were at both the top and the bottom of our lists. And, a bigger city doesn’t necessarily mean a bigger salary, as often metropolitan areas are more desired and therefore can afford to offer less. Optometrists practicing in rural areas often find these locales are willing to pay more to ensure their community's eyecare needs are met.
Optometrist salaries by state
When negotiating salary as an optometrist, the first step is to understand the market value in your desired region or state. For instance, the average annual salary for optometrists in South Dakota is a mere $97,600, while optometrists next door in North Dakota are pulling in $172,430 per year on average.
At the same time, it's important to take into consideration elements like cost of living, housing availability, transportation options, and overall convenience of a given location, as this will also impact how your salary translates to your everyday reality.
States with the highest optometrist salary
|District of Columbia||$189,750|
States with the lowest optometrist salary
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Read on to find out the other factors that affect your salary and see the average optometrist salary for all 50 states as well as where your state ranks in rate of pay.
Practice setting plays a real role in the average optometrist salary
Our surveys revealed one of the most accurate indicators of salary is practice setting, with academia yielding the lowest salary at 104,000 and multidisciplinary practices employing both MDs and ODs coming in at the top with $155,000.
Optometrist Salary by Practice Setting
|Practice Setting||Median Salary|
|MD + OD Multidisciplinary||$155,306|
|Hospital & HMOs||$152,558|
|Community Health Center||$122,500|
|VA & Military||$115,682|
We’ve gathered some other interesting data regarding practice setting:
- Private practice is still the most popular with 50% of employed optometrist employed by that modality and most graduating ODs planning to seek out a private practice as their first job.
- With the growth in corporate optometry over the last several years, it is perhaps unsurprising to learn that the average optometrist salary in corporate optometry surpasses that of private practice.
- The majority of survey respondents working at the VAMC were new grads, residents, or ODs with a max of three years of experience, which may account for the lower average salary in the VAMC.
- Many are feeling compelled to contribute their time and talents by practicing optometry within community health clinic settings. In addition to providing a venue to help at-risk and high-need populations, this setting offers the opportunity to practice full-scope optometry.
How experience relates to optometrist salary
When it comes to salary, time spent in the optometry field plays a significant role. As one would expect, as experience increases, typically, so does the average optometrist salary. For example, in a median market, a new grad will start out at $109,000 while an OD with 4-6 years experience will garner $123,600, and an individual will 10+ years experience will earn $166,800.
Gender also influences optometrist salaries
Another eye-opening finding of the 2021 Eyes On Eyecare Optometrist Report is the significant difference between salaries for male and female ODs. Based on salary data for all optometrists polled (including employed optometrists and practice owners), male ODs are taking home about $41,699 more per year than female counterparts when salaries are averaged by gender.
Specifically, among employed optometrists, male ODs are earning about $32,000 more (25.6%). Amongst practice owners, males are earning about $34,000 (22.4%) more. This echoes the findings of the Review of Optometry’s 2020 Income Survey, which showed an even greater inequity with the average salary for male optometrists of $194,460, compared with just $124,337 for female ODs.
Note: Those who preferred not to disclose their gender or identified themselves as non-binary accounted for fewer than 2% of respondents.
How much do optometrist make in each of the 50 States?
Average Optometrist Salary by State
|District of Columbia||$189,750||1|
The future of optometry
First, the good news. Optometry salary seems to be on a steady incline. From 2020 to 2021, the average optometry salary went up 17% from $113,396 to $132,534. Out of our respondents, 70.9% expect their salary to increase again this year. For 2022, 49.7% are focused on growing their current business and 19.7% plan to add an associate OD.
Optometrists also feel more confident in 2021 that they will be able to pay off their student loan debt, which has dropped from $127,943 in 2020 to $93,943 in 2021 among employed optometrists.
The areas optometrists are most optimistic about are dry eye, myopia management, presbyopia, and early detection through imaging advancements.
Even with all of these seeming positives, there seems to be a general malaise. Despite salary increases, only a slight majority expressed salary satisfaction. Average attention to advocacy efforts shrank by 12.32% with AOA membership following suit; only 53.1% reported joining, as opposed to last year’s 64.8%. This seems to signal less overall enthusiasm.
But perhaps most disconcerting is the fact that, since 2020, the number of optometrists who say they would still choose optometry if they had the chance to do it all over again has shrunk from 78% to 72%, a small but concerning drop.
However, with exciting treatment innovations, more accessible technologies, progressive legislation, and the world’s continuing return to “normal,” we expect 2022 to yield a renewed excitement within the field.
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