Optometrists
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Overview
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.
Predicted employment growth
Over the next decade, jobs for optometrists are expected to grow by 18%, and should have about 2,000 job openings a year.
Safety from automation
Optometrists are less likely to be automated than 73% of other careers.
Workforce size
Optometrists, with 40,200 workers, are near the middle of all careers in the number employed.
Education
About 99% of optometrists have a graduate-level education, and 100% have at least a bachelor's degree.
Education attained by optometrists
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Context: workers with graduate degrees
More optometrists have graduate degrees than 99% of other careeers.
Salaries
The median (middle) salary for optometrists is higher than 95% of all other jobs' middle salaries. The graph shows inflation-adjusted salaries for most optometrists.
This job's median $112KAll jobs' median $39K$109K$38K20142015201620172018$0$50K$100K$150K$200K$250K
Context: Median Salary
Gender
Women account for 41% of optometrists -- that's a larger percentage than 55% of other jobs.
Gender of optometrists
Men
Women
Context: Salary inequity
For each career, we compared the median (middle) men's salary to the median women's salary. For optometrists, the median men's salary was 13% more the median woman's salary.
Race/Origin
About 20% of optometrists are minority, and 13% are foreign-born.
Race/origin of optometrists
White
Black
Pacific Islander
Hispanic
Asian
American Indian
Multiracial
Other
Context: Foreign-born workers (13%)
Where are the most jobs?
We ranked the number of jobs in Optometrists per thousand workers in each state, DC, and Puerto Rico. The darker the blue, the higher the job density.
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
Job benefits
Employer or union-sponsored pension plans are offered to 39% of optometrists, and 50% have company-sponsored health insurance (26% have dependents enrolled in their employer's health plan).
Employer-provided health coverage for optometrists
100% premiums covered
Partial premiums covered
Plan with no cost sharing
No health insurance
Top college degrees
Here are the top college degrees held by the 100% of people in this job who have at least a bachelor's degree. Some of degrees may link to multiple programs due to the way Census classifies college majors. Click on a program to learn more about career opportunities for people who major in that field.
The downside
Some jobs are more stressful than others, and some are just plain dangerous. The following list gives the percentages of optometrists who report hazardous or difficult situations typically occurring at least once a week.
  • Exposed to Disease or Infections (69%)
  • Time Pressure (65%)
  • Consequence of Error (48%)
  • Responsible for Others' Health and Safety (39%)
SOURCES:24.0 O*NET
Salary and diversity
Salary overview
What do optometrists earn?

In this section, we want to give you a clear idea of what you can expect to earn in this career. We use two sources of data here: the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which asks employers to classify their workforce and to report salaries using the SOC-specialty level of reporting, and the American Community Survey (ACS), which asks people to classify their jobs using the broad classifications that ididio uses for career profiles, and to self-report their salaries. For some jobs, the differences in survey approaches between BLS and ACS can paint a very different end-picture. Whenever possible, we provide data from both sources.

The BLS-compiled salary data is reported by companies for their employees. This data excludes self-employed workers. We first show the distribution of salaries for optometrists, and then we show how the middle (median) salary for optometrists compares to the BLS-computed median salaries of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for optometrists (BLS Salary Data)
$112K$0$50K$100K$150K$200K
Context: Median salaries across careers (BLS Salary Data)
$112K$0$50K$100K$150K$200K
We compiled household data from the ACS to determine the salaries that people working at least 35 hours a week report themselves to earn. Unlike the BLS estimates, this data includes self-employed wages. We first show the full salary distribution for all optometrists, and then we show how the median (middle) salary for optometrists compares to the median ACS-reported salary of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for optometrists (ACS Salary Data)
$103K$0$50K$100K$150K$200K
Context: Median salaries across careers (ACS Salary Data)
$103K$0$50K$100K$150K$200K
Employers and salary
A look at employers and corresponding salaries
The donut shares the break-down of workers by employer type, and following we show the salary distributions for these workers based on those employer types. For some careers, the salaries can be vastly different between private, government, and self-employment. As with our salary overview, we view the both the BLS economists' salary profiles and the household-reported salaries from ACS to get a thorough understanding of where optometrists work and for what salary. We have the great faith in the accuracy of economist-vetted BLS data; however, the BLS restrictions on which employers are surveyed skews the data a bit (read more in the sources), and the ACS responses provide different and useful categorizations of employers and salaries.
Employers of Optometrists (ACS)
Private for-profit (45.5%)
Private not-for-profit (3.6%)
Local government (0.4%)
State government (0.3%)
Federal government (4.1%)
Self-employed incorporated (31.7%)
Self-employed not incorporated (14.3%)
Working without pay (0.1%)
Distribution: Salaries of optometrists by type of employer (ACS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type calculated by aggregating individual household survey responses.
$103K$101K$104K$93K$122K$103K$0$50,000$100,000$150,000$200,000Self-employed not incorporatedSelf-employed incorporatedFederal governmentPrivate not-for-profitPrivate for-profitAll
Distribution: Salaries of optometrists by type of employer (BLS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type as reported by BLS based on large employer-focused surveys. We note that smaller employer categories are not included by BLS.
$112K$108K$112K$101K$0$50,000$100,000$150,000$200,000State governmentLocal governmentPrivateAll
Age and career advancement
Salary growth for optometrists

The biggest take-away from the following two charts is the relationship between salary and experience that we can infer from age. Does this job seem to attract especially younger or older workers? Does it reward experience?

Take a minute a look at how much you might expect your salary to increase with each five years' experience, as well as how the numbers working in this career changes. We only provide this data when there are enough consistent ACS survey responses to allow a reasonable margin of error, so for some careers you will see gaps in our reporting of salary by age.

$119K$113K$96K$103K$104K$103K$106K$0$50K$100K$150K$200KSalary distribution20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64
01K2K3K4K5KNumber employed20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Gender and Equity
Optometrists and gender

With 41% women, this occupation has a higher percentage of women than 55% of careers.

Context: Women in the workforce
41%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Gender of Optometrists
Men (59%)
Women (41%)
Distribution: Salaries by gender

As we'll illustrate at the bottom of this section, the median salary for all full-time male workers in the US exceeds the full-time median salary for women by 20%. The situation is a little better for optometrists, with the median salary for men 13% higher than the median salary for women. This chart shows you the salary range for most workers by gender.

$95K$108K$0$50K$100K$150K$200KWomenMen
Context: Salary Inequity

Nationwide there are twenty careers for which men do not have a higher median (middle) salary than women. The chart below shows the salary inequity, the percentage by which the median men's salary is higher than the median women's salary, for most jobs. Optometrists have one of the middle percentage increases for men's salary, with the increase for the men's median salary over the women's median salary in this job higher than that for 35% of other jobs.

13%0%20%40%60%80%100%

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Race/Origin
Race and origin of optometrists

The representation of minority and foreign-born workers is quite different between careers, and the relative pay of those workers also varies significantly between careers. The percentage of minority optometrists falls in about the middle of all careers' percentages. The percentage of foreign-born workers in this career is near the middle of all careers.

Race/origin of optometrists
White (79% )
Asian (16% )
Multiracial (2% )
Black (2% )
Other (1% )
American Indian (0% )
Hispanic (0% )
Context: Representation of minorities in the workforce
20%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Context: Representation of foreign-born workers
13%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Distribution: Salaries for optometrists by race/origin

For some careers, there is a pay disparity depending on race or origin, though this is not prevalent. We calculate standard errors for all of our calculations, and when the error is high we do not show results. Therefore, for some jobs will have omitted race/origin categories.

$92K$97K$104K$159K$0$50K$100K$150K$200KBlackAsianWhiteAmerican Indian
Distribution: Salaries for optometrists by nativity
$102K$103K$0$50K$100K$150K$200KAll foreign-bornAll native citizens

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Pathways to this career
Education requirements and salary
Education attained by optometrists

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), optometrists typically hold a doctoral or professional degree.

Sometimes the typical education identified by the BLS differs a bit from the reality of the how much education current workers actually have. The donut shows the education level held by people currently working as optometrists as reported in responses to the American Community Survey. Following, we investigate whether education level influences salary for optometrists.

Education attained by optometrists
None
High School
Some College
Associate's Degree
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Deg/Doct
Doctorate
Details: Education and training recommended for optometrists

Optometrists need an O.D. degree. In 2016, there were 20 accredited O.D. programs in the United States, one of which was in Puerto Rico.

Applicants to O.D. programs must have completed at least 3 years of postsecondary education. Required courses include those in biology, chemistry, physics, English, and math. Most students have a bachelor’s degree with a premedical or biological sciences emphasis before enrolling in an O.D. program.

Applicants to O.D. programs must also take the Optometry Admission Test (OAT), a computerized exam that tests applicants in four subject areas: science, reading comprehension, physics, and quantitative reasoning.

O.D. programs take 4 years to complete. They combine classroom learning and supervised clinical experience. Coursework includes anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, optics, visual science, and the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and disorders of the visual system.

After finishing an O.D. degree, some optometrists complete a 1-year residency program to get advanced clinical training in the area in which they wish to specialize. Areas of specialization for residency programs include family practice, low vision rehabilitation, pediatric or geriatric optometry, and ocular disease, among others.

Details: Licensing and certification recommended for optometrists

All states require optometrists to be licensed. To get a license, a prospective optometrist must have an O.D. degree from an accredited optometry school and must complete all sections of the National Board of Examiners in Optometry exam.

Some states require individuals to pass an additional clinical exam or an exam on laws relating to optometry. All states require optometrists to take continuing education classes and to renew their license periodically. The board of optometry in each state can provide information on licensing requirements.

Optometrists who wish to demonstrate an advanced level of knowledge may choose to become board certified by the American Board of Optometry.

Distribution: Salary by education level

What level of education is truly needed for optometrists? Below we see the distribution of optometrists salaries based on the education attained. These comparisons are based on all survey responses by those who identified themselves as optometrists, and are not intended as a statistical analysis of salary differences that would correct for non-educational factors that could contribute to high or low earnings.

$107K$107K$120K$103K$102K$0$50K$100K$150K$200KHigh School (0%)Bachelor's Degree (1%)Master's Degree (2%)Professional Deg/Doct (68%)Doctorate (29%)
Bachelor's degree pathways
College majors held by optometrists

This table shows the college majors held by people working as optometrists. Select any degree to see detailed information. We are able to connect careers to degrees using the American Community Survey (ACS), and their degrees are defined a little differently from our programs, which are based on standard CIP classifications. Therefore, selecting some degrees will lead to a selection of CIP-level programs from which to choose.

If you see "**" before the name of a degree/program, that means this field is one that the Department of Education believes is preparatory for this career. However, you can see from this list that those recommendations are far from your only path to this job!

Degree
Select any title to learn more about that degree
Percentage of Optometrists with this degree
Salary for all majors
Salary distribution (across jobs). Showing 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
Final education level of all people with this major
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Gender
Gender of people this bachelor's degree
Men
Women
40.1%
$0$200K$63K
5.2%
$0$200K$53K
5.0%
$0$200K$73K
4.2%
$0$200K$62K
3.0%
$0$200K$69K
2.7%
$0$200K$65K
2.5%
$0$200K$70K
1.9%
$0$200K$73K
1.6%
$0$200K$67K
1.4%
$0$200K$86K
1.3%
$0$200K$63K
1.1%
$0$200K$61K
0.9%
$0$200K$55K
0.8%
$0$200K$53K
The link between degrees and careers
The link between degrees and careers

With the following "sankey" diagram, you can follow the top ten bachelor's degrees held by people working as optometrists, and then, in turn, you can see the 10 occupations that hire the most of each degree's graduates. This visualization links fields of studies and careers, suggesting both similar careers and options for degrees. The full list of bachelor's degrees held by optometrists given in the previous section reminds us that there are many paths to these careers beyond what we can summarize here.

This job
Top 10 majors
Each major's top ten jobs
Physicians and surgeonsPostsecondary teachersManagers (specialized areas)Elementary and middle school teachersDentistsRegistered nursesPhysical scientists (specialized areas)Epidemiologists and Medical/Life ScientistsClinical laboratory technologists and techniciansPharmacistsCounselorsSocial workersPsychologistsLawyers, judges, and magistratesHuman resources workersEducation administratorsFirst-line supervisors of retail sales workersAccountants and auditorsWholesale and manufacturing sales representativesMedical and health services managersSecondary school teachersChemists and materials scientistsChief executives and legislatorsPhysical therapistsChiropractorsPhysician assistantsVeterinariansBiological scientistsScience techniciansNurse PractitionersNursing, psychiatric, and home health aidesNurse anesthetistsApplications and systems software developersComputer programmersComputer systems analystsComputer and information systems managersActuariesBiologyPsychologyMultidisciplinary or GeneralScienceChemistryPhysiologyZoologyBiochemical SciencesHealth and MedicalPreparatory ProgramsNursingMathematicsAll other degrees
Switching Careers
Most common new jobs
The most common next careers for optometrists

What jobs will most optometrists hold next year?

The data in this chart comes from person interviews for the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. The survey interviews households eight times over a two-year period, allowing us a glimpse into how people move from job to job. You can see more details from the results of the survey in our last tab in this section, and you can read about our methodology in our source descriptions.

Here we see all of the jobs that at least 1% of optometrists reported holding in their second year's survey. Is your future job on this list?

OptometristsChiropractorsElementary and middle school teachersMedical assistantsOpticiansPhysicians and surgeonsFirst-line supervisors of retail sales workersMedical and health services managersGeneral and operations managersDentistsComputer programmersWholesale and manufacturing sales representatives
Lateral career moves
Lateral job transitions for optometrists

A lateral career transition is a move to a job with similar pay and responsibilities. A move to such a job can offer a change of pace without an increase in stress or a decrease in pay. The following table simply identifies all 3 jobs which were held by at least 1% of survey respondents before working as optometrists as well as 1% of respondents after working as optometrists. Select a row to investigate the job's full description and determine if it truly offers an opportunity for a lateral transition.

Lateral-move careers for optometrists
Annual openings
How many openings are expected each year?
Salary
Salary distribution for people in this occupation. Range is 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Gender
Men
Women
Medical and health services managers
36,700
$0$200K$69K
Physicians and surgeons
28,600
$0$200K$76K
Opticians
7,000
$0$200K$37K
Full prior and next career listings
Prior and next careers for optometrists: full listings

What do people typically do before and after they work as optometrists? Here are the full lists of all jobs that at least 1% of optometrists surveyed reported as holding a year earlier or later.

Choose which type of transition to view
Prior jobs
Next jobs
Prior careers for optometrists
Annual openings
How many openings are expected each year?
Salary
Salary distribution for people in this occupation. Range is 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Gender
Men
Women
Percentage Transitioning
What percentage worked in this job the previous year?
Applications and systems software developers
118,900
$0$200K$96K
2.0%
Medical and health services managers
36,700
$0$200K$69K
1.5%
Production, planning, and expediting clerks
35,500
$0$200K$45K
1.2%
Computer and information systems managers
32,500
$0$200K$99K
1.0%
Physicians and surgeons
28,600
$0$200K$76K
8.3%
Chief executives and legislators
24,000
$0$200K$96K
2.6%
Electrical and electronics engineers
23,100
$0$200K$93K
1.2%
Medical, dental, and ophthalmic laboratory technicians
10,700
$0$200K$36K
1.5%
Opticians
7,000
$0$200K$37K
8.3%
Optometrists
2,000
$0$200K$103K
66.6%
No occupation
1.5%
Read about optometrists
Responsibilities and activities
Responsibilities and activities

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 quitting smoking or losing weight 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.

Optometrists should not be confused with ophthalmologists or 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. Opticians fit and adjust eyeglasses and, in some states, fill contact lens prescriptions that an optometrist or ophthalmologist has written.

Personality and skills
Personality and skills

Can you see yourself in the ranks of optometrists? Here are the skills and traits that could lead to success.

Decisionmaking skills
Optometrists must evaluate the results of a variety of diagnostic tests and decide on the best course of treatment for a patient.
Detail oriented
Optometrists must ensure that patients receive appropriate treatment and that medications and prescriptions are accurate. They must also monitor and record various pieces of information related to patient care.
Interpersonal skills
Optometrists spend most of their time examining patients, so they must be at ease interacting with patients and must make them feel comfortable during treatment.
Speaking skills
Optometrists must clearly explain eye care instructions to their patients, as well as answer patients’ questions.
Trends in employment
Salary trends
Distribution and trends: Salaries for optometrists
Choose actual dollars or inflation-adjusted dollars to view
Adjusted for inflation
Historic dollars

In 2018, the median (middle) salary for optometrists was higher than 95% of all other jobs' middle salaries. This graphic shows how the salary distribution (adjusted for inflation) has changed for this job over recent years. The gray line, as a comparison, shows the median salary of all US workers.

This job's median $112KAll jobs' median $39K$117K$38K200420052006200720082009201020112012201320142015201620172018$0$50K$100K$150K$200K$250K
Projected versus actual employment
Exploring actual employment trends versus projected trends

Currently, jobs for optometrists are anticipated to grow by 18% over the next decade; only 8% of jobs are predicted to grow more.

The projected employment for optometrists is the best guess created by talented economists and statisticians at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, as you look through several careers you'll notice that the projections are heavily influenced by past performance and may miss current trends. No one can tell the future, and as new information and better techniques are developed, actual counts and future projections may change. Here's a glimpse at the actual counts versus the projections over time.

2000201020202030020,00040,00060,000
Employment counts
Actual measured employment
BLS 10-year predictions
Variation by state
Employment
State-by-state employment numbers

Some careers tend to be centered in specific parts of the country. For example, most jobs in fashion are in New York or California. Let's see if your dream job is easy to find in your dream location! We have a few choices for viewing the data that can help you get a full employment picture.

Job density versus job count

Which states hire the most optometrists? We wonder if that's a fair question since states come in all sizes, so instead let's start with the question of which states have the highest density of people working as optometrists. You can choose to view the number of jobs per state if you prefer.

BLS vs ACS data

This map defaults to employment information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which provides job totals carefully compiled for accuracy and with a primary focus on how employers describe their workers. The BLS job totals do not count self-employed workers. We've also compiled totals using the Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS) which are based on how workers describe themselves. Sometimes ACS results are quite a bit different from the employer-based BLS data.

Choose the metric to review
Jobs per 1000 working
Number of jobs
Use this data source
BLS
Number of Optometrists per 1,000 workers (BLS)
Select a state to see local area details
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
0.00.20.40.6
Salary
Salaries by state
Let's get a feel for where optometrists earn the highest salaries. There are several choices for which data we consider and how we view that data, and each can lead to different conclusions, so please read on...
Median salary versus state ratio

We use two methods to compare salaries across states:

  • In-state comparisons: the ratio of median (middle) salaries for optometrists compared to the median salary for all people working in each state, or
  • Median salary: the unaltered median salaries for optometrists.

We hope the ratio allows perspective about how salaries may compare to the regional cost-of-living.

BLS vs ACS data

We have two sources for statewide salary information with important distinctions. The BLS data is created by surveying companies, missing individuals who are self-employed or work for smaller companies. The ACS data is compiled from multi-faceted household surveys and may reflect the inconsistencies that people may have in reporting information.

Choose the metric to review
In-state comparisions
Median salary
Use this data source
BLS
Median salary ratio: Optometrists to all workers (BLS)
The darkest shading corresponds to states in which optometrists earn the highest salary when compared to other jobs in the state. We think this ratio might be a better indicator than the actual salary for your buying power as a state resident.
Select a state to see local area details
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
0.01.02.03.04.0
Compare to similar jobs

If this job interests you, then use the dots below to find other jobs you might like. The dots closer to the top represent jobs that are like Optometrists (shown with a blue star). Look for the dots to the right to find the best salaries! (We pulled salary data from BLS, and they give a top salary value of just over $200K to protect privacy, so our graph would go much higher if the salaries were not top coded.)

How should the career similarity be computed

There are a number of ways to measure the similarity of jobs, here are a few we provide:

  • Interests: Also known as a Holland Code - Are you a thinker? A helper? What fits your personality?
  • Environment: Are there hazards? Will you be comfortable? Will it be stressful?
  • Knowledge: What do you need to know the most about?
  • Physical Abilities: Do you need to especially strong or coordinated?
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