Income of an Eye Doctor: What Do Eye Doctors Earn?

Oct 20, 2021

The amount of money an eye doctor earns is dependent upon a number of factors, including job title, employer and the type of work performed. Learn how much optometrists and ophthalmologists can expect to make, and find out the educational requirements.

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Eye Doctor Salary Overview

Here we will compare the salaries of two different kinds of eye doctors and get information about the two different degree programs and licensing requirements for these doctors.

There are two types of eye doctors in the United States: optometrists and ophthalmologists. Optometrists test for and diagnose vision problems, prescribe eyewear and medications, and provide eye therapy and rehabilitation treatments. Ophthalmologists are medical doctors who specialize in performing eye surgery, treating and diagnosing eye injuries and diseases, and prescribing eyewear. The income of an eye doctor depends on the type of doctor one is, among other factors, like work experience and employer.

Optometrists Salaries

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary of an optometrist as of May 2018 was $111,790, with most making between $57,480 and $188,160 per year. Offices of other health practitioners employed the most optometrists, and these employers paid optometrists an average wage of $116,150. Outpatient Care Centers offered optometrists an average wage of $138,660, which was the highest wage by industry. reported in February 2020 that entry-level optometrists earned a median wage of $98,545, while those at the mid-career level made a median wage of $109,401. The most experienced optometrists earned a median wage of $120,136.

Ophthalmologists Salaries reported in February 2020 that ophthalmologists earned a median wage of $215,685, with most making between $104,000 and $352,000 a year. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), all physicians and surgeons working for physicians' offices made an average wage of $239,060 in May 2018, while those working for general hospitals made an average salary of $178,520.

Required Education and Licensure

Both optometrists and ophthalmologists need to earn accredited doctoral degrees and meet licensure requirements. However, program coursework and licensure exam contents differ for these professionals.


Optometrists typically complete a four-year Doctor of Optometry degree program from an accredited optometry school. Students learn in the classroom as well as in the laboratory. Clinical training courses cover diagnosing and treating eye disorders. Courses include optics, vision science, pharmacology, and biochemistry.

Postgraduate clinical residency programs are available for optometrists who wish to specialize in a particular area of optometry. Specializations include areas such as pediatrics, geriatrics, family practice, vision therapy, ocular surgery, and low-vision rehabilitation.

Licensure requirements include earning a Doctor of Optometry degree from an accredited school of optometry and passing a national board examination and a state, regional, or national clinical examination. Optometrists must renew their licenses every one to two years, depending on the state. Continuing education credits are required for maintaining licensure.


Ophthalmologists typically complete four years of undergraduate studies, four years of medical school, and at least three years in a hospital residency program. Medical school coursework with a focus toward ophthalmology may cover topics in anatomy, pathology, physiology, pharmacology, epidemiology, and optics. Residency specialty areas include oculoplastics, medical and surgical retina, glaucoma, pediatric, and neuro-ophthalmology.

All U.S. physicians and surgeons with a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree, including ophthalmologists, must pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination to obtain licensure. Individuals may have to meet state-specific requirements as well.

Optometrists and ophthalmologists are two kinds of eye doctors that each typically make over $100,000. Optometrists receive a Doctor of Optometry degree, while ophthalmologists receive a Doctor of Medicine degree and specialize in ophthalmology.

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