The Average Ophthalmologist Salary In 2024 [According To Data]

The average base salary for an ophthalmologist is $388,000, according to Medscape Ophthalmologist Compensation Report 2023.

As with any job in healthcare, exact salaries depend on a range of factors, but we’ve compiled some info as a starting point.

This article will explore the many factors that can affect your annual salary and offer some tactics for ensuring that your income is above the national average.

Key Takeaways

  • The average base salary for an ophthalmologist in the US is approximately $388,000 in 2024.
  • New medical residents earn $55,400 in their first year, increasing to $67,400 in the final year.
  • Ophthalmologists’ salaries tend to rise with additional experience.
  • Top-paying states include Washington, Delaware, and Virginia. Lowest-paying states include Georgia, Louisiana, and Florida.
  • Self-employed ophthalmologists earn slightly more ($395,000) than employed ones ($391,000).
  • Hospital-employed ophthalmologists make about $205,000, while those in outpatient clinics can earn up to $68,000 more.

Average Ophthalmologist Salary

Depending on where you look for compensation data, the average salary of an ophthalmologist could range from $200,000 to almost $400,000.

We’ve already mentioned that Medscape’s average is $388,000.

Let’s have a look at other sources:

According to these four sources, the average base salary in the US is around $277,773 per year.

Ophthalmologists have mixed opinions about their careers. To start, only 24% said that they do extra work to supplement their income.

However, only 42% of ophthalmologists feel fairly compensated. Yet, 73% said that they would choose medicine again, and a whopping 92% said they’d choose ophthalmology once again.

Factors That Affect an Ophthalmologist’s Salary

With such a wide salary range, you may be wondering what factors affect the expected salary of an ophthalmologist.

Years of Experience

Medscape’s 2023 Residents Salary & Debt Report shows that the average pay for a medical resident is $55,400 in the first year.

This number jumps slightly each year and ends up being $67,400 in the last year.

Once you finish the residency, you should expect your salary range to increase the more years you spend on the job.

Your experience and contacts will also help increase your average salary.


Just as where you live impacts your cost of living, it can also increase your hourly wage.

When it comes to medical job titles, the demand for your specialty in a certain location can also increase your average base salary.

In certain states, ophthalmologists earn more on average than in other states.

Top-Paying States

According to ZipRecruiter, the best-paid ophthalmologists live in these states:

Granted, the average salaries they list are much lower than the compensation data gathered from other sources.

But at the very least, it offers an idea of where to look for the best pay.

Lowest-Paying States

That same table lists these states as the lowest-paying states for ophthalmologists:

Related: The 10 Best States to Practice Medicine

Type of Practice

According to Medscape’s compensation survey for ophthalmologists, those who are self-employed earn $395,000 on average.

Employed physicians, on the other hand, earn an average of $391,000.

This data confirms that you can make slightly more money by going into private practice.

But starting a practice is a big decision and should be weighed very carefully (although we have a guide to starting your own ophthalmology practice that will help).

Hospitals have the highest demand for many medical specialties and are usually the easiest places to start out.

The amount they pay doctors depends on their overall revenue.

However, for ophthalmologists, an outpatient clinic may be more lucrative.

According to one source, hospital employees earn around $205,000 per year, while those working in an outpatient clinic can earn up to $68,000 more per year.

That same source shows that some of the highest-paying job openings are found in healthcare organizations, which pay as much as $348,000 a year.

As always, those who work in an academic setting earn the lowest salaries — roughly $173,000 on average.

Additional Ways to Increase Your Income as an Ophthalmologist

There are some things that ophthalmologists can do to go beyond their basic salary.

Here are some strategies:

Buy an Office Building

If you are self-employed, create a passive income stream by purchasing a medical office building and renting out the extra spaces.

Not only will you earn money, but you will also save money on rental payments.

Practice a Subspeciality

An ophthalmologist may find that they can charge more if they develop a niche or subspecialty, such as pediatrics or oculoplastics.

The average ophthalmologist is considered a “comprehensive ophthalmologist.”

These physicians provide general eye care and treat common conditions like glaucoma and cataracts.

Ophthalmology subspecialists attend an extra year of fellowship where they learn procedures specific to certain parts of the eye (cornea, retina, etc).

Having the skills to treat less common eye conditions could help you increase your salary.

Embrace Bonuses

Every ophthalmologist should take advantage of bonus opportunities. According to Medscape, the average incentive bonus for an ophthalmologist is around $100,000 per year.

You can even get a hefty one-time signing bonus through a new employment contract.

Of course, you may have to do some negotiating to get this type of offer.

Learn how to do this through our guide: How to Ask For a Signing Bonus

How to Negotiate Your Ophthalmology Employment Contract

Speaking of negotiations, one of the best ways to ensure that your annual salary meets your expectations is to negotiate your employment contract to reflect those numbers.

Of course, you can’t expect negotiations to go exactly as you please—there must be some compromise.

One way to ensure that you are getting a fair deal from your employment contract is to have your contract reviewed by a professional team of lawyers and accountants.

These professionals can protect you from unfair contract terms.

They will ensure the contract is complete and that all terms are clearly defined:

It’s important to have your employment contract reviewed whenever any changes are made to them.

This includes when you are entering or renewing a contract, of course.

It also includes leaving a contract, renegotiating a contract, changing your compensation and benefits package, or becoming a partner in the company.

We want to ensure that you receive fair compensation. Learn about our contract review and negotiation services here.

Ophthalmologists and Their Student Loan Debt

Ophthalmologists carry a heavy burden of student loan debt. The steps to financial independence include paying these loans off as quickly and efficiently as possible.

There are several options that any physician can take advantage of, the most popular being employer-sponsored loan forgiveness.

This can be very helpful for cutting down your debt and working your way towards an early retirement.

If you aren’t lucky enough to find an employer that offers this incentive, you still have options that can significantly reduce your student loan debt or at least make it more affordable to pay them each month.

Learn all about how to do this in our Full Breakdown of Medical School Student Loans.

Disability Insurance to Protect Your Ophthalmologist Salary

As you begin to reach milestones in your medical career, you need to take steps to protect your ophthalmologist’s salary and ensure that all your hard work is rewarded.

Unfortunately, as much as we try to stay safe and care for our health, illness and injury can befall us all.

This is where a strong disability insurance policy saves the day.

In the event that a disability prevents you from earning an income, your policy will allow you to pay your bills and maintain the quality of living you’re accustomed to.

However, disability policies include many definitions and clauses, and they all have different terms.

Before you buy, make sure you understand the different types of disability insurance so you can pick the right one for you.

Learn more in our Full Guide to Disability Insurance.

As you inspect your patients’ corneas and retinas, it’s also important to review your career path and ensure to update your knowledge you are reach your earning potential.

Work With Physicians Thrive

As you gain experience and skills, your income should increase accordingly.

But wherever you are in your career, there are steps you can take to increase your salary.

There’s no sense in earning less than you deserve or putting your hard-earned money at risk.

With a team of financial advisors on your side, you don’t have to worry about it.

Contact us today.

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