The average annual optometrist salary for someone working in the United States is reported to be about $114,000. This equates to roughly $55 an hour. The top optometrists can make up to $145,000 annually, or about $70 per hour. This is a pretty sum of money. Even optometrists in the lower 10th percentile make close to six figures a year (up to $94,000 annually or $45 an hour). Those optometrists working in the middle of the pack make between $103 and $131K a year, making their hourly rates between $50 and $63 an hour.
Many factors can add up to influence the salary of an optometrist. Hours worked, level of education, and geographical area all factor in to an annual salary. Those optometrists working in the metropolitan areas do enjoy a slightly higher pay-grade, but nonmetropolitan areas still leave highly educated and dedicated optometrists with six figure salaries every year. Some states offer optometry in outpatient care centers. Those working in such centers tend to face a smaller annual income.
Most employers add benefits such as social security, pension, 401K, and healthcare benefits, among many other paid benefits. An optometrist salary can be boosted significantly after adding the compensations of these benefits. After everything is accounted for, a highly trained optometrist working in a metropolitan area or its surrounding suburbs could have a compensation package that upgrades their salary to about $160,000 a year.
Job Description of an Optometrist
Optometrists specialize in the eyes. Typically, an optometrist will test patient’s eyesight, examine the overall eye, and fit contacts or glasses if necessary. They are trained to recognize various diseases concerning the eye, including glaucoma and cataracts. An optometrist’s office will be outfitted with special cameras, allowing the doctor to take pictures of each part of the eyeball. Any visual problems or diseases in the eye can be diagnosed with the combination of these pictures and tests for eyesight limitations.
Optometrists can also spot general health conditions when examining the eye. For instance, a trained optometrist should be able to determine if his or her patient has diabetes through simple examination. For this reason, optometrists often work in cooperation with other doctors, to ensure the patient gets the best health care possible. Optometrists can make referrals to a number of other practicing practitioners based on their own diagnoses.
Under some circumstances, an optometrist’s office will be physically connected to an eyeglass center. He or she will have junior staff whose main purpose is to help outfit patients with glasses (contacts are usually handled by the doctor). Besides the prescription, the look and feel of the frames is important to a patient, since he or she might be wearing them on a daily basis. For this reason, optometrists and their staff are trained to give advice on the fit, feel, and fashion of frames.
How to become an Optometrist
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In order to become an optometrist, a person must complete a four year program at an accredited school of optometry. These schools are reviewed by the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education. A list of programs accredited by this board can be found at the American Optometric Association’s website.
To enter any of the listed schools, a person must have completed at least three years at a college or university. This supplies their basic education. Despite the minimum of only three years needed, most optometrists had completed their bachelor’s degree before moving on to optometry school. This may be a good idea for optometrists-in-training. After having received the basic college education (degree or otherwise), one must pass the entrance exam for optometry school. It is called the Optometry Admission Test (OAT).
Training to become an optometrist will include normal classroom instruction, but clinical experience under the supervision of a licensed optometrist is also a must. Anyone wishing to specialize in a field of optometry will have to undergo an extra year of training. This is usually completed by doing a residency.
A license for an optometrist will only be completed after having done four years of the specialized optometric school’s program, as well as passing the National Boards of Optometry. This is basically an exit exam from training, and it will allow the student to become a fully licensed practitioner in the United States of America. Some states require a second test on top of this. The work is not done after getting a license, however. Continuing education is a must for optometrists, just as it is for most doctors. This is required to maintain the license.
Optometrist Salary in Other Countries (Canada, UK and Australia)
A licensed optometrist working in Canada should expect an annual salary of around C$85,000. Optometrists working in Australia earn only slightly less, around A$75,000 annually on average.
Unfortunately, optometrists working in the United Kingdom earn far less than the average optometrist both in the States and in Canada. Licensed professionals working in the UK may only make about £37,000 annually. It’s best to stick to the U.S. for this job.
Verdict on Optometrist Salary
Optometrists are still licensed physicians. While they do not make nearly as much as many other doctors, the salary is still high. The normal optometrist visit for the average patient takes only about twenty minutes with the actual doctor. While there’s plenty of continuing education required, the optometrist is less likely to work crazy hours or be on call in the middle of the night. Some people would gladly relinquish salary for those benefits.