Jan. 12, 2022
Well over a year and a half after the onset of COVID-19, optometry seems to have found its footing and made it to more solid ground, according to this year’s annual income survey. A record 1,600 optometrists responded this year. The topline finding: average income increased by 13 percent in 2021 over 2020, to $180,253. This is the highest annual income the survey has recorded and puts optometry back on track with pre-COVID numbers.
Following suit, the 87 percent of respondents who identified as full-time noted a 9 percent increase in their average income to $185,453 in 2021. Part-timers experienced a 63 percent rise, to $145,005, likely by picking up more hours. Both groups fared especially well, considering their take-homes dipped last year by as much as 30 percent for those putting in part-time hours.
Editor’s note: As always, be mindful that while we ask the same survey questions, the responses we compare from year to year come from different individuals, making trend analysis tricky, especially among a smaller cohort. The results offer a representative look at the profession, but aren’t considered statistically rigorous, particularly year-over-year comparisons.
In addition, while we recorded 1,600 responses this year, we omitted a small number of outliers that produced misleading data to improve the overall accuracy of the findings.
Regardless of the number of years spent practicing optometry, this year’s survey cohort showed increases in income—some more notable than others—across the board, with the exception of one experience bracket. Luckily, the more seasoned optometrists seemed to make up for this shortcoming.
Survey respondents with up to 10 years of experience made an average of $164,470 this year, up 29 percent from 2020.
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Those with 11 to 20 years of experience earned 18 percent more than their newer counterparts, at $193,627. This represents another 7 percent yearly increase for this group.
Financial progress stalled in this next experience bracket (21 to 30 years of experience). These respondents of the 2021 survey earned 12 percent less than the previous group, at $170,937—a 3 percent decrease over the last year.
Getting back on track and earning 21 percent more than their colleagues with 10 fewer years of experience, the more veteran optometrists—those with over 30 years of experience—reported an average of $206,844 in 2021, up 19 percent from 2020. This is in line with the notion that more experience equates to higher earnings, which wasn’t always the case in past income surveys.