Optometrist Jobs: Career Trends

Optometrist jobs are expected to grow much faster than the average and prospective optometrists need to complete an undergraduate degree as well as three years in an accredited optometry school.


Amongst the general public, there is some confusion between optometrists, ophthalmologists and opticians. An optician dispenses corrective lenses and they will also assist in the lens fitting process. An optician usually completes a one or two year program in opticianry and completes a certification examination. An ophthalmologist is a doctor that treats disorders of the eye, and an ophthalmologist has completed medical school as well as a residency in ophthalmology. An optometrist examines the eyes and can prescribe corrective lenses and treat some eye conditions. An optometrist usually completes a four year undergraduate degree as well as an additional three year degree to become a doctor of optometry and successfully passes a licensing examination. Each of these three career paths has a different job outlook.

Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for optometrists is expected to be much faster than the average, with an increase twenty percent or more of available jobs by 2018. Factors involved in this increase in job opportunities include an aging population that needs corrective lenses or treatments for eye conditions that appear as people age, as well as more insurance providers offering coverage for procedures offered by optometrists.


According to the Indeed Salary Survey, the average optometrist salary nationwide is $54,000 per year. The SimplyHired salary data for optometrists lists the average nationwide salary for optometrists as $42,000 per year. These numbers are based on the salary information included on job postings indexed by their job posting search engines, and these averages may not reflect an accurate average for optometrists since not all job postings include a salary offer. Some of the postings for optometrists indexed by these sites may also just be part-time positions. A part-time position in this profession could be less that 40% of a full-time position.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the median annual salary for optometrists as $96,000 per year. The top paying states include Vermont, Washington and Louisiana, with optometrists in Vermont making $146,000 per year. The top paying cities include Spokane WA, Amarillo TX, and Orlando FL, with optometrists in Spokane making an average annual salary of $165,000 per year.

Work Environment

Many optometrists are self-employed, which means they maintain their own clinics, equipment, hire and manage staff. Other optometrists may assume a full-time or part-time position and share clinic space with several optometrists. Some optometrists will operate as independent optometrists in a retail setting, similar to independent pharmacists that provide services in large retailers. Others will operate in proximity to, or also offer optician services within their clinic. There are also healthcare providers and insurers that hire optometrists to provide services. Some optometrists may also operate mobile clinics which travel to rural or remote areas to provide eye care and assessment. There are also opportunities to provide healthcare abroad, usually in international development, or to work in veteran health services, clinics and hospitals.