NEW YORK—This seems to be the time of the year when “taking the temperature” of various professions and industry sectors is a popular undertaking. It’s especially popular these days because of all the upheaval and displacement in the labor force that observers lay at the feet of the COVID-19 pandemic. Who among us doesn’t want to get a better understanding of what’s going on in our day jobs (particularly since, for some, the definition of “workday” has literally expanded)?

For optometrists and others working in eyecare practices, three surveys and/or reports have dropped over the past few weeks that shine a light on where ODs stand on a number of topics today. Here’s a brief summary of the key findings across these surveys and rankings.

The most recent of the three reports looks at optometry as a profession in newsmagazine U.S. News and World Report’s annual look at the Best Jobs in the U.S.

Optometry ranked No. 13 among health care professions No. 22 in “Best Paying Jobs,” and No. 37 among all jobs listed in the ranking. (The magazine listed “information security analyst” as the No. 1 job overall.)

According to U.S. News, optometrists had a median salary of $118,050 in 2020, while the best-paid 25 percent made $145,720 and the lowest-paid 25 percent made $91,180. The report also listed upward mobility as average, stress level as average, and flexibility as above average, as noted in the summary of optometry as a profession.

Another popular report came in December with Jobson's Review of Optometry’s annual salary survey for ODs. The survey findings and analysis, “2021 Income: Back on the Playing Field,” is posted here. It was published on Dec. 15, 2021.

The report noted that even as COVID-19 became, for many, an established part of everyday life, “optometry like every other profession was forced to adjust and find its way in the new normal—or be left behind.” On the positive side of the ledger, only 25 percent of ODs who responded to Review’s annual income survey indicated that COVID had more of a financial impact in 2021 than in 2020.

Another key finding of the Review survey is the tightening of the gender gap as it relates to earnings. This gap closed by 42 percent to a new low of 14 percent since the development of this annual income survey, Review reported.

Men, who made up 60 percent of respondents, took home 3 percent less in 2021, at an average of $189,260, while women respondents reported earning a significant 33 percent more than last year, at $165,447. The result, Review noted, was “to close the divide by a large enough amount to put optometry on the right path when it comes to earning equality across genders.”

The Review survey noted some significant differences tied to the OD’s geography, including the detail that “from the least to the most profitable region to practice optometry in the country lays a 44 percent financial gap.” Each of the five regions of the country reported an increase in average annual income over the last year, “some at more disproportionate rates than others to further widen the regional financial divide.”

According to the report, optometrists in the West remained the least profitable this year but still managed to make 9 percent more than 2020, at $152,793. The South dropped from its place in the lead last year to the middle of five regions, at $194,782, which was still a 9 percent increase over 2020. More details on geographic are available in the report.

Another recent report and survey on the “state of the optometric profession” comes from Eyes On Eyecare, which in December issued its “2021 Optometrist Report.” Eyes On Eyecare is a digital publication that provides clinical and career education to “the young generation of optometrists and ophthalmologists,” and it is a subsidiary of Covalent Creative.

“Last year, the 2020 Optometrist Report captured the views of eyecare professionals at the tail end of one of the most difficult years in recent history,” Matt Geller, OD chief executive and co-founder of Eyes On Eyecare, wrote in the report’s introduction.

“The pandemic had forced furloughs, job losses, and practice closures, not to mention the tragedies and personal losses that so many experienced. Yet optometrists were largely hopeful about the future—even if our optimism had taken a hit over the course of the pandemic.”

However, 2021 turned out to be a much better year for ODs, he added. “This year [2021] we saw the arrival of vaccines, the lifting of lockdown restrictions, and a largely recovering industry. Our patients felt safe coming back into the office, as did most of us.”

A breakdown of salary and income is also a central component of the Eyes On Eyecare report, which based its findings on the survey responses of 708 optometrists and students.

In 2020, the median salary among optometrist respondents was just above $113,000, while that number jumped almost 17 percent to $132,524 in 2021, according to the survey.

“However, since 2020, salary satisfaction has stayed flat, with practice owners, who earn 31 percent more on average than employed optometrists, being just as likely to only be “mostly” satisfied with their salaries as employed ODs,” according to the report.

Another interest finding: Since 2020, the number of optometrists who say they would still choose optometry if they had the chance to do it all over again has shrunk from 78 percent to 72 percent, “a small but concerning drop,” Eyes On Eyecare noted.

The Eyes On Eyecare report delves into practice setting, clinical focus and exam metrics, among other topics.

Overall, Geller wrote in the introduction, there are many reasons to be optimistic about the future of optometry.

“As we look forward to 2022, we can expect to see even more innovations coming down the line,” he wrote. “With new processes and technologies in place, we’re confident in the capabilities of optometrists and our colleagues to take advantage of new developments to continuously improve the sight, health, and lives of our patients.”