Optometrist Salary: Requirements, Education, and More

The average optometrist salary is six figures, and it’s a career path that allows a certain level of flexibility. When you work in the world of optometry, you get to maintain more stable hours. You aren’t typically on-call, and you won’t find many emergency situations in your work schedule. You get to work as a doctor while also living with the benefit of being home for dinner each night. 

An optometrist salary allows for a good living, and these two factors are some of the most important aspects of the decision-making process.

An optometrist is not the same as an ophthalmologist or an optician. It’s easy to assume all three are the same, but each title comes with a specific role. If you want to become an optometrist, you can further your career and become an ophthalmologist by continuing your education and becoming licensed to perform surgery.

Becoming an optician allows you to fit your patients for their glasses and their contacts, and determine whether your patients need additional help to correct their vision without performing vision testing.

An optometrist’s job is located right in between the simplicity of an optician and the extremities of an ophthalmologist.

What Is An Optometrist?

optometrist salary - optometrist checking up

An optometrist is a doctor of optometry with the education and proper licensing necessary to test patients for vision issues. An optometrist goes to college, obtains a degree, and attends further schooling to learn how to examine eyes. 

The job requires a doctor to diagnose vision issues and other issues within the eye, write prescriptions and help their patients find the right contact lenses and/or glasses. 

An optometrist does not perform surgery on a patient’s eyes, but they can treat smaller issues. The optometrist salary scale depends on where you work and what kind of facility you serve.

The duties of an optometrist include:

  • Testing for disease
  • Testing for vision problems
  • Writing prescriptions
  • Recommending treatment options and/or surgeries
  • Recommending preventative measures
  • Diagnosing health problems in the eye
  • Treating patients with vision problems

Education & Certification

Due to the nature of the work, those who wish to become an optometrist are required to earn specific degrees and licenses. The educational requirements for an optometrist are the same in every state, but licensing and certification requirements might vary slightly from state to state. 

Before you go into this line of work, it is important to understand what requirements are in place to work in your location.

Educational Requirements

It takes eight years to become an optometrist. Depending on how many classes you take at a time, you might need a little more or less time to complete your education. Where you go to college is less important than how well you do in college. Once you obtain your Associate’s degree, you must obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in an appropriate career field. You cannot major in business, receive a Bachelor’s in Finance and work as an optometrist.

Your degree must be closely related to optometry, such as physiology, chemistry, or biology. It’s imperative you work hard and earn top-notch grades if you want to further your career after earning your four-year degree.

Once you have a Bachelor’s Degree in hand, you must apply for an optometry program at an eligible university. It’s easy to find a program, but you want to be sure it’s the program you want to go through. It’s a long process, and you cannot apply until you take the Optometry Admissions Test. It's commonly referred to as the OAT. You must pass this test and send it in with your admissions application before you're considered for any optometry program both public and private. 

It’s also imperative you understand that optometry schools are exceptionally selective. They do not accept everyone who applies to their program. They accept only the best of the best, and your college grades must reflect your desire to further your education.

Once you’re accepted into an optometry program, you’ll spend four years honing your skills and learning how to do this job. The classes you take in optometry school are highly specific and quite difficult. Here you’ll learn to recognize every aspect of the eye, diagnose vision issues, use machines to test for vision problems, and properly help your future patients. You must do well in each class to remain in optometry school and graduate with a Doctor of Optometry.

Licensing And Certifications

Graduating with a doctorate is only the first step to becoming an optometrist. The next step is to obtain the proper licensing and certification required by your state. Every state has its own list of requirements, and you must adhere to each one. Every state requires proof you graduated from optometry school with a Doctor of Optometry degree. You must then pass a state examination. Once you pass the state exam, you must pass a national exam.

To keep your license and certifications active, you must follow state rules for continuing education. Depending on where you live, you must take courses and passes additional exams every few years. Most states require you adhere to continuing education requirements on a one to three-year schedule.

Career Path Of An Optometrist

optometrist salary - mens eyes being check

It’s not a requirement, but many optometrists undertake a year of residency with a proper program in their states. This residency allows you to gain access and education in a specialized line of optometry, and provides you with work experience that can benefit you when it’s time to apply for a job. Many medical offices view candidates with a residency program on their resume more favorably when it comes to hiring new doctors.

The career path for an optometrist is optimistic. As people age, their vision worsens. The need for people who do this line of work in the medical field is continuously growing, which means job prospects are almost always growing as well. Once you have your degree, your doctorate, and a job, you have options to expand your career. You must choose whether you want to work in an office setting, in a hospital setting, for someone else, or for yourself.

There are jobs in specialized areas of optometry, such as in the military or with professional sports teams.

You can work with only people who have specific vision issues, children, and families, or another personalized aspect of the field. Your career path is based largely on what you feel is best for you. You have the option to work as a college professor or teacher of optometry in an accredited program, too. Your options are endless, and you get to personalize your career to fit your lifestyle.

The average optometrist works a typical 40-hour work week, but that varies based on the needs of patients and the desire of the optometrist to be more available. If you own your own practice, you can hire other doctors to take on additional hours so you can work fewer. If you want to work part-time and only see patients a few days a week, it’s possible you can find a job that allows that.

Optometry is a career path that allows a certain degree of flexibility.

Average Optometrist Salary

optometrist salary - eyeglasses

The average optometrist salary in the United States is $53.03 per hour or $110,300 per year according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017. This number is only an average. It goes up or down based on where you live, what kind of office you work in, and what specialties you have. 

It’s possible to reach an annual salary of more than $190,000 per year depending on where you live, and it’s also possible to earn an optometrist salary as little as $53,740 per year. It’s been reported that they typically offer the highest salary packages in states such as Connecticut and Alaska.

Conclusion

Optometry is an admirable field–and it’s one that will always have a place in the medical industry. The benefit of this job is not just the great optometrist salary. It’s also your ability to create your own schedule and make a difference in the lives of your patients. Many doctors in other lines of work have hours that keep them out in the middle of the night, that require they spend their weekends on call, and who struggle to maintain a personal and professional life balance. 

This is not the case when you work as an optometrist. Your hours are pre-determined, and you get to lead a relatively normal life outside the office while still helping patients with one of the most important aspects of their overall health.

Becoming a doctor of optometry allows more freedom and flexibility, but it requires additional schooling and continuing education after you receive your undergraduate degree.

It's difficult to earn admission into a school of optometry, and you must focus on your undergraduate grades to increase your chances of being accepted. These optometry schools accept an average of only one in three applicants-so it's highly competitive.

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