An optometrist salary is a complicated thing that depends on many different factors. You cannot simply query it in Google, find a figure and roll with it. You will not get an accurate figure!

Screenshot of an optometrist salary

No offence to Neuvoo who calculated this figure. I’m sure they have solid data, but if you really want to know what an optometrist salary is, you have to dig a lot deeper than that. In this article I will explain to you how an optometrist gets paid – and it’s a little more complicated than you might think!

What Is An Optometrist Salary?

The first problem is the question itself. In Canada, the vast majority of optometrists don’t receive a salary in the strict sense of the word.

salary definition

Optometrists are not paid a fixed regular amount. Their pay depends on several factors which I will discuss with you in this article. But first, let’s ask the right question.

Rather than ‘what is an optometrist salary?’, a better question would be ‘how much do optometrists make?’

How Much Do Optometrists Make?

All optometrists have the same basic job; they examine patients. But every optometrist makes a different amount. Why is that? Well, it depends on several things. Some of them are controllable, some of them are negotiable, and some of them are just the way they are.

Controllable Factors

Work Week

One of the benefits of being an optometrist is that you can choose your own schedule. You don’t like working Monday to Friday? No problem. You want to have 3 or 4 day work weeks, you got it. An optometrist can set the schedule that suits his/her lifestyle most.

This flexibility makes it difficult to pinpoint an exact dollar amount figure that optometrists make in a year. Those optometrists who have it in them to work 7 days/week will be making a lot more than those working 3 days/week.

Example Optometrist Schedule
Example of an optometrist schedule

Work Day

Optometrists don’t all work the same hours. Some only work half days, some do long 10-12 hour days. It all depends on the optometrist and this too, will affect how much an optometrist makes.


Generally speaking, optometrists get to choose where they work. If an optometrist works in an area saturated with optometrists at every street corner, they will not make as much as if they were in an area where they are the only optometrist. That’s why optometrists in small rural towns tend to make a lot more than optometrists in the big city.

Google Maps of Optometrists in a Small Area
A street densely populated with optometrists

Business Savviness

Optometrists who run their own clinics have to be business savvy in order to succeed. An optometrist could be great at giving eye exams, but if he/she does not have the right staff, purchase the right equipment, carry the right frame lines, do the right marketing, etc., then he or she will not make as much as someone who does.

Negotiable Factors

Associate Contract

Example Optometrist Contract
Example of (part of) an optometrist contract

When joining an already established practice, an optometrist must negotiate an agreement with the practice owner. These are called associate agreements or associate contracts, and they stipulate (among other things) how much of the exam fee the associate optometrist will get to keep and how much will go to the practice owner.

Depending on the type of clinic, an associate optometrist may take a cut of several different services rendered and products sold. Here is a list of items an optometrist could be remunerated for:

  1. Performing eye exams
  2. Selling additional tests such as; retinal imaging, optical coherence tomography (OCT) imaging, visual field tests, pachymetry, gonioscopy, corneal topography, etc.
  3. Selling additional services such as; contact lens fittings, contact lens teachings, vision therapy, dry eye therapy, low vision assessments, etc.
  4. Selling glasses and contact lenses
  5. Selling eye care products such as; eye drops, hot compress masks, vitamins, lid wipes, etc.

The commission on all the products and services mentioned above varies from contract to contract. Some optometrists may get 80% of sales, whereas others might only get 40%. It all depends on the market you are in and the practice owner you are signing the contract with.

Uncontrollable Factors

There are some things in life that we just can’t do anything about, yet, they can have a major impact on our livelihoods. In optometry, there are such things that determine how much optometrists make.

Provincial Health Plans

Sample OHIP card

In Canada, one of these things is provincial health plans. Each province is a little bit different, but in Ontario for example, optometrists are not allowed to charge children or seniors for an eye exam. Rather than receiving payment from the patient, a claim must be submitted to the province for reimbursement.

That doesn’t seem too bad, so what’s the big deal, right? The big deal is that provinces do not reimburse optometrists for the full cost of the eye exam. Depending on what an optometrist charges for their eye exam, the province will generally pay back somewhere between 30-50% of the cost and the optometrist has to absorb the rest.

Some provinces allow for co-pay, others don’t.

Read this article to find out more about how this works in Ontario. 

Shifts In The Industry

The landscape of optometry is changing fast. Only a couple of decades ago, all optometrists had to contend with was competition from other optometrists in town. Nowadays, optometrists compete with online glasses and contact lens retailers from all over the world. Some companies are now even offering online eye exams. Who knows how the fast pace and ever-changing nature of the internet will affect local optometrists in the future.

Banners for Express exam online eye exam
Is this the future, or a fad?

No Benefits

However much an optometrist makes throughout the years, it needs to be taken into account that optometrists receive no dental packages, no paid vacation, no paid sick days, no retirement plan, no drug plan, etc. etc.

Whether an optometrist is a practice owner or an associate to one, they are considered to be self-employed and on their own when it comes to health care spending, budgeting for vacations, and retirement savings. On the bright side, not getting vision benefits isn’t a big loss…

So Then… What Is An Optometrist Salary?

Or, more accurately, how much do optometrists make?

As you now understand, it depends on many different things. Before we can spit out some figures, we must define certain parameters. Here are just 2 of near-endless different scenarios.

Scenario #1


Self-Pay Eye Exam: $100
Province-Pay Eye Exam: $45
Self-Pay Patient to Province-Pay Patient Ratio: 50/50
Average Patients Seen Per Day: 10
No Revenue From Glasses/Contacts/Product Sales
Job Type: Associate
Associate Makes: 60%
Vacation Time: 3 weeks/year + statutory holidays (10)


@ 6 days per week: $124,410 / year (before taxes)

@ 5 days per week: $103,965 / year (before taxes)

@ 4 days per week: $83,085 / year (before taxes)

Scenario #2


Self-Pay Eye Exam: $120
Province-Pay Eye Exam: $45
Self-Pay Patient to Province-Pay Patient Ratio: 50/50
Average Patients Seen Per Day: 10
Job Type: Associate
Associate Makes: 22% of all money generated for practice
Capture rate*: 40%
Average Glasses Sale: $500
Vacation Time: 3 weeks/year + statutory holidays (10)

*Capture rate is the percentage of patients that also buy glasses in-house


@ 6 days per week: $177,749 / year (before taxes)

@ 5 days per week: $148,538.5 / year (before taxes)

@ 4 days per week: $118,706.5 / year (before taxes)


It is impossible to say exactly (or even ballpark) how much “an optometrist” makes because every optometrist’s situation is different. An optometrist salary in Canada depends on their location, the contracts they sign, the success of their clinic, their schedule, the mix of provincially insured vs self-pay patients, the competition around them, their ability to upsell products and services, the performance of their supporting staff, ebbs & flows in the economy, and you know, worldwide pandemics, etc, etc.

If you have any specific questions about how optometrists get paid, let me know in the comments below!


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