The data behind the CovalentCareers Optometrist Salary Calculator is based on five surveys of optometrists conducted between 2017 and 2019 and more than 2,000 job postings in the CovalentCareers database. Respondents to the surveys had a median grad year of 2015; reported current salaries ranged from below $60,000 to more than $200,000.
The 2019 CovalentCareers Optometrist Report shows that over the last nine years, average starting salaries have increased by 36% from $73,000 in 2000 to $99,300 in 2019. In addition, 71.7% of ODs expect their salary to continue to increase over the next year.
Optometrist salaries by state
- California: $103,000
- Colorado: $110,900
- Florida: $115,700
- Georgia: $113,900
- Illinois: $109,300
- Michigan: $106,900
- New York: $119,800
- Texas: $108,600
- Washington: $108,500
- Average optometry salary in all states
When negotiating salary as an optometrist, the first step is to understand the market value in your region. Average optometrist salaries vary considerably by state, region, and even city; for instance, the average annual salary for optometrists in Maine is $103,800, while optometrists in New Jersey are paid $117,200 per year on average.
At the same time, it's important to take into consideration elements like cost of living and the desirability of a given location, as this will also impact your understanding of your salary. Many rural locations offer considerably higher salaries than urban practices in the hopes of attracting ODs. For instance, the average salary for an optometrist in San Diego, CA with 1-4 years of experience is $95,000; that same OD could expect $152,000 per year in Idaho!
Optometrist salaries by practice setting
In optometry, private practice is still the most popular setting: both in terms of where graduating ODs hope to work in their first job, and in terms of the number of ODs employed by that modality. Out of the 4,833 ODs we surveyed, 2,420 of them work or have worked in private practice. Another 1,445 work or have worked in corporate practice, leaving the remaining 968 working across other optometry practice settings like hospitals or the IHS.
The average salary for optometrists working in private practice is $110,800, with new grads starting at an average annual salary of $95,500.
Getting even more granular, CovalentCareers data show an average base salary of $130,000 for ODs working at a private practice managed by a private equity firm.
With the growth in corporate optometry over the last several years, it is perhaps unsurprising to learn that the average optometrist salary in corporate optometry surpasses that of private practice.
CovalentCareers’ survey data shows the average salary for optometrists practicing in a corporate setting (including subleases) is $115,600.
New grad optometrists entering a corporate practice start at an average annual salary of $105,500.
Optometrists working in an ophthalmology practice earn an average base salary of $110,800.
In an ophthalmology setting, optometrists perform full ocular health assessments and refer patients who need ocular surgery. The average rate of pay for optometrists in OD/MD practices is roughly equal to that of private practice.
Optometrists looking to enter this setting should be wary of being offered flat rate of pay, and come prepared to present their clinical skills and scope of practice.
Hospital & Veteran Affairs Medical Center (VAMC)
Optometrists working at a hospital earn an average base salary of $102,900, with those at the VAMC earning $84,900.
Optometrists who are active staff in a hospital setting tend to earn less than optometrists in a corporate or private practice setting. ODs with more experience earn, on average, $125,000 per year, suggesting that hospital optometry offers the potential of greater salary growth than private practice or corporate optometry.
The majority of survey respondents working at the VAMC were new grads or ODs with up to three years of experience, and were likely either residents or early-career optometrists, accounting for the lower average salary in the VAMC. ODs in the VAMC with 4-9 years of experience earned an average salary of $115,000. As federal employees, VA optometrists are also eligible for excellent benefits, and work with a unique patient population.
Like optometrists practicing in hospital settings, the average OD working in academia earns lower pay than their peers employed by corporate and private practice. The average base salary for ODs practicing in academia is $87,500.
Optometrist salaries by gender
Data from CovalentCareers’ 2019 Optometrist Report show a significant difference between salaries for male and female ODs. The median annual salary for female optometrists is $109,111, while male ODs bring in $120,948 each year, or 11% more.
This echoes the findings of the Review of Optometry’s 2018 Income Survey, which showed an average salary for male optometrists of $191,256, compared with just $139,522 for female ODs.
Similarly, a survey from the Optometry Compensation Study Group (OCSG) found a wage disparity of 25% across the profession, with male ODs outearning their female counterparts at $159,866 compared to $119,699. The news was slightly better for newly graduated ODs, where the difference in starting salaries sat at 7% between male and female optometrists.
Optometrist salary growth
Inflation is one of the major drivers of salary growth. US inflation can be measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), a measure of the average change over time in the prices paid by consumers for goods and services. From 2000 to 2019, the CPI was 2.11%. In order to maintain employees’ purchasing power year-over-year, salaries often increase by at least the CPI rate.
Over the 19-year period between 2000 and 2019, the total percentage change in inflation was 44%, while the change in OD salaries was only 36%. Corporate optometry and private equity pay roughly 12.3% higher than private practice, so it appears that salaries in corporate optometry and private equity are on par with the CPI rate.
The Federal Reserve shows that the average month-over-month rate of wage growth in healthcare was 3.3% over this period, so at 2.03% optometry is lagging behind the overall healthcare rate. Demand for ODs is also rising due to aging baby boomers, market consolidation, and growth, creating a short supply of ODs. This should cause salaries to rise faster—in order to keep up with inflation, salaries in 2020 would be at least $110,837.