Education & Training
- After obtaining a four-year undergraduate degree, aspiring ophthalmologists must complete medical school. A one-year internship then is served, followed by a residency program of three or more years. Additional training through more residency time or fellowship programs may be necessary to specialize in areas such as pediatric ophthalmology, ophthalmic plastic surgery or ophthalmic forensic pathology. Cornea, retina and glaucoma care are other specialty areas.
National Salary Averages
- According to the Physician Compensation Survey conducted by the American Medical Group Association, the median salary of an ophthalmologist in the U.S. is $238,200. Salary.com places the median salary at $243,516, with a middle 50th percentile salary range of $218,387 to $281,942. The bottom 10th percentile median salary is $195,508 and the upper 10th percentile figure is $316,929.
- Many of the discrepancies found in ophthalmologist salaries are due to specialization within the field and reductions in Medicare payments, especially for non-specialist ophthalmologists, according to Student Doc. Student Doc reports a salary range of $$138,000 --- representing the lowest-reported salary --- to an average salary of $314,000 and a top-end reported salary of $716,000. An Allied Physicians salary survey, although conducted in 2006, reveals the role that experience plays in ophthalmologist salaries. General ophthalmologists earned an average salary of $138,000 during their first two years of practice, $314,000 after three years and a maximum salary of $511,000. Ophthalmologists who specialize in retina care made an average wage of $280,000 annually in the first two years, $469,000 after three years and a top salary of $716,000. Job-Salary.com shows a top salary of $1.642 million for an ophthalmologist at the Mullis Eye Institute in Panama City, Fla., 30 salaries in the $200,000 to $400,000 range, and a low-end salary of $50,000 for an ophthalmologist researcher at the University of Southern California.
- Albert P. Lin, M.D., in an article for Med Rounds, writes about other income factors, such as production bonuses. For example, with a starting base salary of $150,000 and a typical production bonus of 30 percent, an ophthalmologist who bills $450,000 receives a bonus of $45,000. Investing in a group practice also has a major effect on salary levels, with a reduction in salary over the first few years while a loan is paid back to other group physicians, and an increase in income once an ophthalmologist is a fully participating partner.
- Lin also writes about geographic factors that impact ophthalmologists' salaries, saying that starting salaries in Los Angeles range from $90,000 to $200,000, with a good beginning wage for a comprehensive ophthalmologist or an anterior segment specialist being $120,000 to $150,000 a year in a large city. Lin also writes that retina specialists command higher starting salaries --- as much as $250,000 in rural areas. Salary.com reports that the median salary for an ophthalmologist in New York City is $289,053. The bottom 10th percentile median salary, which would include most starting salaries, is $232,068, and the top 10th percentile figure is $376,191. The median salary in Kingsport, Tennessee, a much more rural area, is $218,921, with a bottom 10th percentile median salary of $175,762 and a top-end salary of $284,917.