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Summary

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Video transcript available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3i9XXhA7cM.
Quick Facts: Optometrists
2022 Median Pay $125,590 per year
$60.38 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Doctoral or professional degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2022 43,400
Job Outlook, 2022-32 9% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2022-32 3,800

What Optometrists Do

Optometrists diagnose, manage, and treat conditions and diseases of the human eye and visual system, including examining eyes and prescribing corrective lenses.

Work Environment

Most optometrists work in offices or in optical goods stores. Optometrists usually work full time, but part-time work is common. Schedules may vary to include evenings and weekends.

How to Become an Optometrist

Optometrists typically need a Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) degree, which take 4 years of graduate-level study to complete. Every state requires optometrists to be licensed.

Pay

The median annual wage for optometrists was $125,590 in May 2022.

Job Outlook

Employment of optometrists is projected to grow 9 percent from 2022 to 2032, much faster than the average for all occupations.

About 1,700 openings for optometrists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for optometrists.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of optometrists with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about optometrists by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Optometrists Do About this section

Optometrists
Optometrists check patients for common vision problems, like astigmatism.

Optometrists diagnose, manage, and treat conditions and diseases of the human eye and visual system, including examining eyes and prescribing corrective lenses.

Duties

Optometrists typically do the following:

  • Perform vision tests and analyze results
  • Diagnose vision problems, such as nearsightedness or farsightedness, and eye diseases, such as glaucoma
  • Prescribe eyeglasses, contact lenses, and other visual aids
  • As permitted by state law, perform minor surgical procedures and prescribe medications to correct or treat visual or eye issues
  • Provide treatments such as vision therapy or low-vision rehabilitation
  • Provide pre- and postoperative care to patients undergoing eye surgery
  • Evaluate patients for the presence of other diseases and conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, and refer patients to other healthcare providers as needed
  • Promote eye and general health by counseling patients

Optometrists are doctors who focus on eyes and vision. Their tasks range from offering preventive care through routine checkups to providing referrals to other specialists for treatment of health conditions, such as autoimmune diseases, that may lead to serious eye problems.

Some optometrists provide specialized care in addition to general eye care. For example, some optometrists focus on treating patients who have partial sight, a condition known as low vision. Others may specialize in treating a certain population, such as infants and children.

Optometrists promote eye health by counseling patients on how general health can affect eyesight. For example, they may counsel patients on how quitting smoking lowers the risk of developing cataracts.

All states allow optometrists to prescribe medication, but states vary in the type of medication they allow optometrists to prescribe. States also vary in whether optometrists may perform surgery or other procedures, such as providing vaccinations.

Optometrists should not be confused with ophthalmologists or opticians. Ophthalmologists are physicians who, like optometrists, treat eye diseases, perform eye exams, and prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses. However, ophthalmologists perform a wider range of surgeries than optometrists do. For more information about 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. For more information, see the opticians profile.

Work Environment About this section

Optometrists
Optometrists work in exam rooms where they use tools to determine patients' prescriptions.

Optometrists held about 43,400 jobs in 2022. The largest employers of optometrists were as follows:

Offices of optometrists 56%
Offices of physicians 17
Self-employed workers 7
Outpatient care centers 4

Optometrists typically work in office settings. This includes offices of optometry and offices of physicians. They also may work in retail settings, such as stores that sell eyeglasses.

Work Schedules

Most optometrists work full time, but part-time work is common. Schedules may vary to include evenings and weekends.

How to Become an Optometrist About this section

optometrists image
Doctor of Optometry programs combine classroom learning and clinical experience.

Optometrists typically need a Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) degree. O.D. programs take 4 years to complete, and applicants typically have bachelor’s degree before entering a program. Every state requires optometrist to be licensed.

Education

Optometrists typically need a Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) degree from a program accredited by the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education. Applicants to these graduate programs must have completed at least 3 years of undergraduate education. However, applicants to O.D. programs typically have a bachelor’s degree in a field such as biology or physical science. Programs that do not require a specific field of degree for admissions might require that applicants have completed courses in subjects such as chemistry, physics, and calculus.

Applicants to O.D. programs also must take the Optometry Admission Test (OAT), which covers four subject areas: natural sciences, reading comprehension, physics, and quantitative reasoning.

O.D. programs take 4 years to complete. They include both academic coursework and supervised clinical experience. Coursework includes anatomy, visual science, and the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and disorders of the visual system. During clinical training, students gain experience treating patients in a variety of settings, such as hospitals and private practice.

After finishing an O.D. degree, optometrists may choose to get 1 year of advanced clinical training in the area in which they wish to specialize. Areas of specialization include primary care, cornea and contact lenses, and ocular disease.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

All states require optometrists to be licensed. 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 candidates to pass an additional exam, such as on clinical skills or on laws relating to optometry.

All states require optometrists to take continuing education classes and to renew their license periodically. For more information, contact the licensing board for the state in which you plan to practice.

Optometrists may obtain an optional credential to become board certified by the American Board of Optometry. This certification requires passing an examination.

Important Qualities

Decision-making skills. Optometrists must evaluate the results of diagnostic tests and decide on the best course of treatment for a patient.

Communication skills. Optometrists must explain diagnosis, treatment, and eye care in a way that patients can understand.

Compassion. Optometrists treat a variety of patients, including those who are frustrated by visual problems. They must be understanding of and sympathetic to their patients’ concerns.

Detail oriented. Optometrists must take care to provide appropriate treatment, including accurate prescriptions. They also must monitor and record specific information related to patient care.

Pay About this section

Optometrists

Median annual wages, May 2022

Optometrists

$125,590

Healthcare diagnosing or treating practitioners

$93,710

Total, all occupations

$46,310

 

The median annual wage for optometrists was $125,590 in May 2022. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $62,150, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $191,430.

In May 2022, the median annual wages for optometrists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Outpatient care centers $176,400
Offices of physicians 136,510
Offices of optometrists 110,800

Most optometrists work full time, but part-time work is common. Schedules may vary to include evenings and weekends.

Job Outlook About this section

Optometrists

Percent change in employment, projected 2022-32

Healthcare diagnosing or treating practitioners

9%

Optometrists

9%

Total, all occupations

3%

 

Employment of optometrists is projected to grow 9 percent from 2022 to 2032, much faster than the average for all occupations.

About 1,700 openings for optometrists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Because vision problems tend to occur more frequently later in life, an aging population will lead to demand for optometrists. As people age, they become more susceptible to developing diseases that impair vision, such as cataracts and macular degeneration, and will need vision care.

The increasing prevalence of refractive errors, particularly myopia, among the general population is another key source of demand for optometrists as they will be needed to diagnose and treat these common eye problems. Moreover, the growing use of electronic devices has translated into an increasing number of individuals experiencing digital eye strain, which may lead to more demand for eye care services. Meanwhile, diabetes has been linked to increased rates of diabetic retinopathy, a condition that affects the blood vessels in the eye and may lead to loss of vision. With diabetes on the rise, optometrists will be needed to monitor, treat, and refer these patients.

Employment projections data for optometrists, 2022-32
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2022 Projected Employment, 2032 Change, 2022-32 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Optometrists

29-1041 43,400 47,300 9 3,800 Get data

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OEWS data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.org. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of optometrists.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help on Entry-Level Education 2022 MEDIAN PAY Help on Median Pay
Chiropractors Chiropractors

Chiropractors evaluate and treat patients' neuromusculoskeletal system, which includes nerves, bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons.

Doctoral or professional degree $75,380
Dentists Dentists

Dentists diagnose and treat problems with patients’ teeth, gums, and related parts of the mouth.

Doctoral or professional degree $159,530
Opticians, dispensing Opticians

Opticians help fit eyeglasses and contact lenses, following prescriptions from ophthalmologists and optometrists.

High school diploma or equivalent $39,610
Physicians and surgeons Physicians and Surgeons

Physicians and surgeons diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses and address health maintenance.

Doctoral or professional degree $229,300
Podiatrists Podiatrists

Podiatrists provide medical and surgical care for people with foot, ankle, and lower leg problems.

Doctoral or professional degree $148,720
Veterinarians Veterinarians

Veterinarians care for the health of animals and work to protect public health.

Doctoral or professional degree $103,260
Audiologists Audiologists

Audiologists diagnose, manage, and treat patients who have hearing, balance, or related problems.

Doctoral or professional degree $82,680
Dental laboratory technicians Dental and Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians and Medical Appliance Technicians

Dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians make or repair dentures, eyeglasses, prosthetics, and related products.

High school diploma or equivalent $41,180

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about optometry, visit

American Optometric Association

For more information about optometrists, including a list of accredited optometric programs, visit

Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry

For information on specific admission requirements and sources of financial aid, contact the admissions officers of individual optometry schools.

For more information about the national board exam, visit

National Boards of Examiners in Optometry

For more information about board certification, visit

American Board of Optometry

O*NET

Optometrists

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Optometrists,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/optometrists.htm (visited February 13, 2024).

Last Modified Date: Wednesday, September 6, 2023

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. For most profiles, this tab has a table with wages in the major industries employing the occupation. It does not include pay for self-employed workers, agriculture workers, or workers in private households because these data are not collected by the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) survey, the source of BLS wage data in the OOH.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's CareerOneStop.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2022 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2022, the median annual wage for all workers was $46,310.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2022

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2022, which is the base year of the 2022-32 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2022-32

The projected percent change in employment from 2022 to 2032. The average growth rate for all occupations is 3 percent.

Employment Change, 2022-32

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2022-32

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2022 to 2032.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

2022 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2022, the median annual wage for all workers was $46,310.