Optometrists are the specialists you see when you need new glasses or contact lenses. They diagnose common visual problems such as nearsightedness and farsightedness and prescribe corrective lenses so you can see more clearly. They also examine the health of your cornea and retina, looking for signs of disease or physical abnormalities that can affect your vision. If you are interested in becoming an optometrist, you will need to earn a bachelor's degree and spend four years in optometry school. In return, you can earn a six-figure income and stay plenty busy helping others improve their vision.
Optometrists earned average annual salaries of $107,720 as of May 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS. If you are among the top 10 percent in earnings, you would make over $183,930 annually. Like other careers, your salary is largely dictated by your experience, geographical area and employer. Since most of these professionals work full-time, you would likely receive benefits such as medical insurance, a retirement plan and paid time off.
You would earn the most as an optometrist working in a physician's office, according to the BLS -- $123,770 per year. You might work for an ophthalmologist or doctor who performs surgeries on patients' eyes, or for a health organization. Outpatient care centers and medical hospitals also pay relatively high salaries -- $114,230 and $105,900 per year, respectively. If you teach or work at a college or university, expect to earn $85,160 annually. As a federal government employee, you would earn significantly less, at $65,900.
Your salary in the optometry field can also vary by state because of cost-of-living expenses and demand. Optical companies in states with a dearth of optometrists may offer higher salaries to attract more professionals. In 2011, optometrists earned the highest annual salaries in South Dakota at $148,640. If you lived in Connecticut or North Carolina, you would also make a comparatively high salary -- $148,310 or $145,770 per year, respectively. But your salary would be closer to the national average in Illinois -- $110,380 -- and somewhat less in Texas at $89,170 annually.
Jobs for optometrists are expected to increase 33 percent from 2010 to 2020, according to the BLS, which is much faster than the 14 percent national average for all occupations. In this field, expect job opportunities to be spurred by an increasing population of aging Americans. Many people need bifocals when they're in their forties. Diabetes is also rising in the United States, which can create visual problems.
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