The field of optometry has many rewarding career opportunities. Whether you’re interested in becoming an optometric physician or an optometry office manager, you can enjoy a wide range of benefits in this field. In fact, an optometric physician is ranked as one of the top 20 healthcare jobs in the United States for quality of life, pay, and future growth, according to the U.S. News’ annual report.
As optometric specialists with extensive experience working with optometry professionals of all kinds, we are here to help guide and support you during your academic and professional career. If any questions arise as you read through this overview of optometry jobs, please feel free to reach out to us!
An Introduction to Optometry Jobs
Optometry jobs are attractive and fulfilling for many compelling reasons, including the following key benefits:
- Competitive Salaries: Optometrists earned a high median salary of $118,050 per year or $56.76 per hour in 2020. As a successful optometry practice owner, you can bump this up even higher to $187,200 or more.
- Opportunities to Make a Difference: Most people are drawn to healthcare professions not only because of the financial incentives but because of a strong desire to help others and make a difference. The field of optometry is no different!
- Relatively Short Educational Path: The path to practice optometry is relatively short compared to other medical career paths, usually requiring just four years of specialized study, with clinical rotations taking place in the final year.
- Great Flexibility: Optometrists are able to work in nearly any location, whether urban or rural. They can find jobs in many different settings, including private practice, group practice, clinics, retail locations, VA health centers, community health centers, academic institutions, and more. Optometrists can also work flexible hours, part or full time.
- Satisfying Work-Life Balance: Compared to other healthcare jobs, optometrists do not have to respond to many emergencies and are usually able to maintain a more predictable work schedule.
- Growing Demand for Optometry Services: Looking into the future, the demand for optometry services is expected to grow as the US population ages. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the profession will grow by about 9% between 2020 and 2030.
- Incredible Support Networks: Optometry jobs are no doubt challenging, but there are many established support networks for optometry professionals out there to support you, like PECAA!
In the sections below, we’ll explore some of the different jobs available in the field of optometry and the credentials, key roles and responsibilities, and typical salary range of each. Our goal is to help you make an informed decision about which path is right for you and provide support for you along the way!
Optometric Physician or Optometrist
An optometrist or optometric physician is a doctor of optometry (O.D.), the primary eye care physician. Most optometrists have four years of undergraduate education followed by four years of optometry school.
Optometrists provide the following eye care services, among others:
- Comprehensive eye examinations.
- Diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases and conditions.
- Screening for general health problems like high blood pressure and diabetes.
- Prescription of medication.
- Fitting of glasses and contact lenses.
- Counseling patients regarding surgical and non-surgical options.
You can attend an optional residency program if you wish to specialize in a specific area of optometry, such as pediatric optometry, developmental vision disorders, and vision-related learning disabilities, vision therapy, etc.
As mentioned previously, the median salary for optometrists in 2020 was $118,050 per year and $56.76 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, this can vary depending on your location, level of experience, and whether you own your own practice or not.
An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who specializes in eye and vision care and is licensed to practice medicine and surgery. The path to becoming an ophthalmologist is longer, as they are required to complete undergraduate education and at least eight years of additional medical training. An ophthalmologist can diagnose and treat all eye diseases and perform surgeries as needed.
Although more education and training is needed to become an ophthalmologist, the payout is significantly higher compared to most optometrists. A typical ophthalmologist can earn anywhere from $256,501 to $349,029 per year.
Opticians primarily focus on helping customers choose glasses and contact lenses, including measuring, fitting, and adjusting eyeglass frames. They perform customer service duties and can answer general eye care questions, but they are not certified to examine, diagnose, or treat eye conditions or diseases.
An optician does not necessarily need to hold a formal degree and can become certified by completing a 1- to 2-year program or in-house apprenticeship under an ophthalmologist or optometrist. The median annual wage for an optician was $38,530 in the year 2020.
Optometric technicians are not the same as optometric physicians. They perform tests on a patient’s color vision, visual acuity, and eye pressure, and record results for the optometrist to verify.
They often take on a more administrative role in ophthalmology clinics and retail shops, scheduling appointments, ordering contact lenses to fill prescriptions, verifying insurance coverage for patients, obtaining patient records, maintaining inventory, testing equipment, and more.
The average salary for an optometric technician is lower than some other optometry jobs, at just $32,102 per year, but you can complete the required training in as little as one year.
The role of an optometric assistant is quite similar to that of an optometric technician. Both positions are responsible for many administrative and technical duties listed above. However, technicians typically complete an advanced certification and therefore are more likely to have additional clinical responsibilities.
Annual wages for an optometric assistant are similar to that of a technician but vary depending on relevant experience and education.
Optometry Office Manager
Larger, more established optometry practices often hire an office manager or practice manager to help supervise and direct staff in day-to-day operations. Having a dedicated office manager can really help systemize and streamline an optometry practice’s operations.
The average salary for this role is slightly higher than for optometry assistant or technician jobs, falling at approximately $47,839. Most successful managers complete an Optometry Office Manager Certification Program in order to become a “Certified Office Manager.”
Check out our guide to successful optometry and ophthalmology practice management to learn more about the keys to success in this important role!
Optometry Jobs: Key Considerations
As you can see, there are many different job opportunities in the field of optometry, all of which can be very rewarding and fulfilling in different ways. When comparing different optometry jobs, it’s important to think carefully about the education requirements, earning potential, and responsibilities, as well as your personal goals.
Whenever possible, it’s a good idea to talk to professionals in the industry and learn from their experiences. Network as much as you possibly can right from the start; you never know how the connections you make might serve you later on in your career!
Optometry Jobs & PECAA’s Support
If you’re an optometry student looking to get a head start on preparing for your future as an eye care professional, consider joining PECAA’s FREE Student Membership Program. As you approach graduation and decide on where you want to go next, you will have the option to apply for standard PECAA Membership as well as PECAA’s Cold Start Practice Program if you’re interested in starting your own practice.
No matter where your optometry career takes you, joining a network like PECAA will help you achieve your personal and professional goals!