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How Much Do Optometrists Make with Their Own Practice?

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An optometrist’s salary can vary depending on a number of factors, such as whether they own their practice or are employed at a practice.

Being an optometrist and owning an optometry practice are very different occupations, but often go hand-in-hand. Owning a practice can have a much higher return, but requires a lot more work and investment. Working at a practice may yield less income, but comes with some added comfort and flexibility.

Depending on a person’s goals and likes, owning an optometry practice could be a perfect career journey. But what does it all entail? 

Factors Affecting Salary

An optometrist’s salary depends on a number of factors, including location, practice setting, and experience. We’ll discuss each factor in detail.


In the United States, location has a significant impact on how much an optometrist can earn. Average salaries vary widely by state, region, and city or town.

However, a big city doesn’t necessarily equate to bigger paydays. Some optometrists in rural areas are paid considerably more because citizens are willing to pay more for high-quality care that’s close to home. Conversely, metropolitan areas that are in high demand can offer less pay as many optometrists want to work in these cities.

Lowest Paid State: IndianaHighest Paid State: District of Columbia

Type of Practice

The type of practice, or practice setting, has a massive impact on salary. This can also affect how much money a practice owner takes home.

50% of employed optometrists are in private practice, but optometrists can also work at hospitals, research labs, corporations, and for the VAMC. The need for optometry continues to grow and in turn, the opportunities for new ODs are increasing every year.

Lowest Paid Practice: Academic/ResearchHighest Paid Practice: MD & OD Multidisciplinary


Years spent in the field can drastically change an optometrist’s salary. With more experience comes more money. While other factors play a role in determining salary, gaining experience is a surefire way to increase your pay. 

Additionally, ODs with more experience have more capital and knowledge to start their own practice. Opening a practice without any previous experience working as an optometrist can be extremely challenging. Waiting a few years to hone your skills and business acumen can help your practice succeed.

New Grad4 – 6 Years Experience10+ Years Experience

Average Salary for an Optometrist

In the United States, an optometrist earns an average annual salary of $141,400. This encompasses all optometrists in all states and continues to rise with the passing years.

ODs who are employed at practices have an average annual salary of $132,524. Practice owners earn an average annual salary of $174,106.

The difference between an OD’s salary and a practice owner’s salary is quite different. This is mainly because practice owners have more control and responsibility for their practice than the employees.  

An OD who is employed by a practice may receive a flat rate or percentage of their production. They will usually receive other benefits, such as vacation pay, medical insurance, and 401k contributions. These ODs also have an easier time managing their work-life balance.

A practice owner has a lot more to consider and a lot more at risk. They are concerned about the profitability and performance of the practice, inventory costs, employee pay and benefits, and much more.

As a practice owner, you have to think big picture for the growth of your business while managing the day-to-day operations. This means ensuring that the staff properly follows procedures and policies with every patient, such as adherence to relevant laws like HIPAA.

Practice owners generally make more per year because they are more invested in their practice than their employees. When the practice performs well, practice owners take home more money. If the practice doesn’t perform well, the practice owner could be in trouble. 

Your aversion to risk is a key indicator of whether you should own or work for a practice. 

A male optometrist sitting in front of optic equipment

Becoming an Optometrist

To become an optometrist, you need to complete a bachelor’s degree and a professional doctorate. You need a significant amount of undergraduate coursework with a focus on science subjects, like anatomy and biology, to qualify for optometry school.  

The main steps required to become an optometrist are as follows:

  • Earn a high GPA during your undergraduate courses 
  • Score highly on the Optometry Admission Test
  • Shadow an optometrist on the job
  • Apply to an accredited optometry school
  • Complete 4 years of optometry courses 
  • Consider a clinical residency to specialize in a field (such as ocular disease)
  • Pass the National Board of Examiners in Optometry test
  • Take any additional exams (this depends on your state)
  • Earn your license to practice optometry in your state
  • Think about securing your board certification from the American Board of Optometry

Optometry is extremely technical, which is why there are so many steps required to become a practicing OD. 

Joining Total Vision

Owning a practice is just a small part of being an optometrist, but it can be the most rewarding in many ways. Sometimes, partnering is a great option for optometrists who need an extra hand in running the business side of the practice. This can also lead to increased revenue and total earnings. If you’re an OD who’s considering starting their own practice, consider Total Vision to help make your dream a reality! Contact us today to learn more.

Written by Total Vision

At Total Vision, we pride ourselves on ensuring healthy eyes for the whole family and work hard to help all our patients look, feel, and see better. With many locations throughout California, we continue to set new industry standards for professionalism and quality. We empower all our partners to offer leading-edge testing, treatment, and eyewear. With the support of our entire network behind each care provider, patients all over the state can enjoy consistent quality and incredible value.
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