Mimi625

2+ Year Member
Dec 24, 2016
39
10
So I've been exploring the forum for a while now and I have to say, I'm utterly confused regarding the future of the profession (going off of what I read anyway).
I was hoping current Optometrists or Optom students could give honest answers. I understand there are so many factors that play a role when considering certain things like salary but overall, I would appreciate unbiased answers (whether for or against the profession). And just to clear things now- I do intend to apply to optometry schools and become an optometrist! I'm fully committed to this, but do want a reality check:

1. Is Optometry becoming a saturated field? According the US Bureu of Labor Statistics, the job outlook is 27% (much faster than normal). So within 5 years from now (once I graduate) what are the chances of me securing a solid job with good pay?

2. Speaking of pay, what is the average starting salary of an O.D after graduation? How does this level of pay fluctuate as time goes on? "
The median annual Optometrist salary is $116,930, as of August 03, 2017, with a range usually between $103,539-$129,607, however this can vary widely depending on a variety of factors."
How true is this statement? In most threads I've read, it seems as though Optometrists today are making far less than these numbers...

3. Isn't it true that the field of Optometry is greatly expanding with the push of allowing O.D to perform surgeries? It doesn't level the field compared to Opthalmologists but doesn't it give Optometrists an advantage in terms of getting patients?

4. Approximately how many years does it take to pay off debt incurred from Optometry school?

5. What is the biggest challenge Optometrists currently face (in terms of patients, insurance, saturation, school, debt, etc.) in your opinion?

It would be really helpful if the individuals who respond also mention what they are (Optom student, O.D, Retired O.D, etc.)

Thank you so much and I look forward to this hopefully being a honest, respectful, and enlightening discussion!
 

WhyNeedAName

2+ Year Member
Apr 9, 2017
209
94
As an undergrad student with optometry experiences, I noticed I am blessed by living in South Florida, which I hear is a gold mine for Optometrists since snow birds migrate down here during the winter. The starting pay is above average. However, there's a lot of competition, and usually a business can't survive unless they sell a ton of glasses too.
I spent the last summer in Alabama, and I was informed about the state's lack of medical professionals, including Optometrists, so there may have no competition. However, starting pay is less than average. So, there's a lot to think about.
For loan pay-off, I've met people who paid off the loans in about 6 years. They went to optometry school around 2006-2012, so times have changed.
As for insurance, I don't know exactly because I volunteered at a clinic that worked with vouchers.
This is as far as I know, I may have somethings wrong, but this is what I've been told and what I've experienced. Hope that helps a bit!
 
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Ryan_eyeball

Senior Member
10+ Year Member
Jul 20, 2005
408
24
Kansas
Status
Optometrist
1. Is Optometry becoming a saturated field? According the US Bureu of Labor Statistics, the job outlook is 27% (much faster than normal). So within 5 years from now (once I graduate) what are the chances of me securing a solid job with good pay?

I'd say the field is saturated but only in certain areas. Try calling 10 local optometrists and see how quickly you can get an appointment (5 private and 5 corporate). You'll find that most can see you within 2-3 days. Most dental practices are booked out for months. I wouldn't want that job either to be completely honest. Stay away from practicing in any city that has an optometry school. I'd even suggest staying away from a state that has an optometry school. If you're willing to move you'll have a lot of opportunity securing a position somewhere.

2. Speaking of pay, what is the average starting salary of an O.D after graduation? How does this level of pay fluctuate as time goes on? "
The median annual Optometrist salary is $116,930, as of August 03, 2017, with a range usually between $103,539-$129,607, however this can vary widely depending on a variety of factors."
How true is this statement? In most threads I've read, it seems as though Optometrists today are making far less than these numbers...

I believe this number to actually high and more for optometrists that have been out of school 10+ years. If you do secure a position in this price range right out of school, kuddos to you. You must also factor in how much your employer is willing to give you in a benefits package as well. This can be as much as 30k if you factor in payroll taxes, health insurance, disability insurance, 401k match, paid time off, state association dues, continuing education class costs. Realistically you may be offered a salary in the 80k range right out of school depending on the area of the country this could be more/less.

3. Isn't it true that the field of Optometry is greatly expanding with the push of allowing O.D to perform surgeries? It doesn't level the field compared to Opthalmologists but doesn't it give Optometrists an advantage in terms of getting patients?

I believe this to be a widely misrepresented statement from students and other schools. Sure preforming foreign body removal, epilation, dry eye treatment are additional revenue streams they are not gang busters. If you can aggressively start a dry eye clinic you can make some decent extra money. In select states the ability to preform yag capsulotomy & laser peripheral iridotomy are nice but patients are not lining up for these services every day unless you have a lot of geriatric patients.

4. Approximately how many years does it take to pay off debt incurred from Optometry school?

This depends again on your interest rate and duration of loan. My student loan in 2006 was as 2.25% and I decided to take it out over 30 years. Fast forward 11 years and I'm still paying on it. It is our final debt now that cars, and house are all paid off. We are always debating at how fast to pay this off since the interest is also tax deductible so the interest is actually lower than that. If I had a 5-6% interest rate I'd be much more aggressive in getting it paid down much faster.


5. What is the biggest challenge Optometrists currently face (in terms of patients, insurance, saturation, school, debt, etc.) in your opinion?

Technology, online retailers, and insurance. 1) Technology is revolutionizing how many patients each OD can see per day. If its allowed in your state I'd hire a tech to refract and just see patients for Slit lamp exam, BIO. 2) Online retail business is definitely shifting in my opinion. Every year I'm seeing more people try to purchase glasses online (cheap, and inaccurate sometimes). Also online contact lens companies do not care about public health since they want to sell as many contact lenses as possible. 1800 contacts steers patients toward Opternative for an "eye exam". 3) Insurance becomes more of a hassle every year. Vision vs Medical insurance explaining this to patients is exhausting. Consider each plan very carefully before you sign up to accept it.

Also be aware that our country is in 20 TRILLION dollars in debt. Eventually taxes will start to rise again or politicians will look to cut benefits to beneficiaries ( not popular to get elected) or cut reimbursements to providers (more likely in some capacity).

Do I like what I do, yeah most days. The return on investment (ROI) is getting harder to justify each year though. My friend who owns his own plumbing business drives a corvette, chevy tahoe and vacations. There is no insurance he has to bill or cap on how high he can raise his fees. Also you're getting a later jump on retirement and compounding interest. Paying into a Roth IRA from 18-26 is hard to do when you are scrapping every extra dollar together for optometry school.


I'm a current Optometrist with 11 years experience. Optometry is a good profession that's clean, pays decent, and good family life. But research a lot before you start your first day of optometry school.

It would be really helpful if the individuals who respond also mention what they are (Optom student, O.D, Retired O.D, etc.)

Thank you so much and I look forward to this hopefully being a honest, respectful, and enlightening discussion!
 
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Dr. Dangerfield

2+ Year Member
May 23, 2017
20
12
Status
Optometrist
Many of your questions can be answered by the following: It's mostly about location.

1. Is Optometry becoming a saturated field? According the US Bureu of Labor Statistics, the job outlook is 27% (much faster than normal). So within 5 years from now (once I graduate) what are the chances of me securing a solid job with good pay?

Optometry is like most other fields. If you're willing to move you can find good jobs. The rub is you might have to move somewhere you don't necessarily want to, as saturation occurs in the most desirable to live areas. It's sometimes difficult to find that combination of nice place to live coupled with a good job.

Places with less access to healthcare are better for building a practice simply because you may be the only game in town. The only problem is, you might not want to live there.

I work in a highly desirable area and it took me years to find what I consider to be a "good job" because of saturation.


2. Speaking of pay, what is the average starting salary of an O.D after graduation? How does this level of pay fluctuate as time goes on? "
The median annual Optometrist salary is $116,930, as of August 03, 2017, with a range usually between $103,539-$129,607, however this can vary widely depending on a variety of factors."
How true is this statement? In most threads I've read, it seems as though Optometrists today are making far less than these numbers...

Again, this totally depends on location and healthcare access. You must keep in mind that an OD who makes 90k in rural Alabama is probably better off financially than an OD who makes 115k in suburban Washington DC simply due to cost of living differences.

Accept the fact that NOT everyone in your class, including you possibly, is going to get a great job right out of school.

The going rate I've heard is about 80k in salary for new grads. If you read my comment above, this can vary greatly. Some of your classmates will literally fall into a great job, and other will struggle for years to find one.

You also absolutely have to factor in benefits. I've done the independent contractor thing and it can be miserable to watch your income get eaten away at by paying your own payroll taxes, health insurance, liability insurance, CE, licenses, etc. You also have to manage the "If I go on a vacation with my family, I don't get paid." A trip to the beach for 5 days seems a lot worse when you realize you paid a bunch of money to go AND you're losing even more money while being there. I really can't stress enough in the current economic environment how important benefits are.

Going back to my area, which is saturated, it took me about 10 years to make 6 figures. I got close years 7-9. Interestingly enough when I hit year 10 I suddenly started making more than the average, and, if you include benefits I make WAY over the average. Nice surprise!


3. Isn't it true that the field of Optometry is greatly expanding with the push of allowing O.D to perform surgeries? It doesn't level the field compared to Opthalmologists but doesn't it give Optometrists an advantage in terms of getting patients?

I think "greatly expanding" is a little optimistic. Again, this depends on location, access and state laws. A high geriatric population helps if they have limited access to ophthalmology. It's certainly not a gravy train though.

4. Approximately how many years does it take to pay off debt incurred from Optometry school?

Couldn't even give you a good estimate on this. I graduated 13 years ago and have much less debt than what you'll have - (Sorry!). I'm on a 30 year plan with extremely low interest. I'm guessing I'll probably get it completely paid off in about 12 more years. For the record, my wife has been a stay at home mommy for about half of my career. She didn't make great money when she was working, but once she gets back into the work force, in about 10 years or so, we'll probably use most of her income to add to our retirement and pay off any left over debts.

The return on investment in nearly every field, not just optometry, is declining due to the cost of school. Optometry, and health care in general, might be worse off because insurance reimbursements have remained stagnant or declined and the market has outside pressures on it.


5. What is the biggest challenge Optometrists currently face (in terms of patients, insurance, saturation, school, debt, etc.) in your opinion

Honestly, probably return on investment. Huge loans coupled with stagnant reimbursements and stagnant salary is a recipe for problems. Don't take this as gloom and doom. I still believe you can do well as an optometrist, it's just way more difficult today than it was in the past. You've really got to do your research and start looking early for a job before you leave school. Find states where jobs are in demand, even if you don't plan on living there forever. If I had to do it over again, I'd move where the best income to cost of living ratio was, even if I didn't like it. Work my rear end off for a few years to pay off debt, and then move to where I wanted to be.

It would be really helpful if the individuals who respond also mention what they are (Optom student, O.D, Retired O.D, etc.)

Optometrist for 13 years. I still enjoy it and can't really imagine myself doing something else. I would still recommend it, however, having financial help in the form of a part time job, spouse, or parents while in school can be really beneficial. My goal was to have my wife stay home and neither of our parents had lot of money, so we had to work really hard to get to where we are now.
 
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Ryan_eyeball

Senior Member
10+ Year Member
Jul 20, 2005
408
24
Kansas
Status
Optometrist
Another variable to look at is taxes! Practicing in a state that doesn't have income taxes can save you from 5-15k a year depending on your income level. Again location becomes important. I'm fortunate to practice in Kansas and have hit 100k a year every year except my first year out of school. Kansas is difficult to license in and its not a desirable state to live. Therefore, the number of practicing OD's is quite low. My wife is from southern california and we'd get creamed with housing costs and higher state income taxes (9%+ I think) if we ever moved there. Thankfully my wife never wants to go back.

Live like a pauper in college and optometry school. You don't need a brand new car, or solo living.
 
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Mimi625

2+ Year Member
Dec 24, 2016
39
10
Wow, thank you so much to all for your responses! This is invaluable information, and I appreciate you taking out the time to respond.
 
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