Men earn at least 6.5% more than women in their first full-time jobs as optometrists and could make at least 13% more in their current role, a recent study suggests.

This new survey included full-time optometrists who are not residency-trained and do not own their practice. Participants completed an online questionnaire, providing data about their first and current optometry positions and demographic information.

The researchers grouped the final 366 responses into two groups: group one included 196 respondents who graduated from 2015 to 2018, while group two included 170 respondents of all graduation years. The researchers analyzed starting salaries for group one and current salaries for group two.

Regardless of region (Northeast, Midwest, South, West) and practice type (private practice, commercial practice, medical setting, educational institution, federal), the researchers reported that men in group one were paid higher starting salaries than women. The gap was largest in the West, at 13.27%, and smallest in the Midwest, at just 0.49%. Those in a medical setting had the biggest wage gap, 13.19%, and the least was in the commercial at 4.86%. The authors note that the sample size was too small to analyze the data for the federal setting.

For current salaries in group one, they noted that men were also paid higher in almost all regions and practice types. Interestingly, the current salary wage gap based on gender was highest in the Midwest, at 25.86%—the highest gap reported. However, women out-earned men in the West in their current salary, with a difference of −9.16%. The team admitted the study results are limited by the fact that they did not control for time in practice for the group two analysis. 

“The average salaries presented in this study are useful for optometrists wishing to negotiate their salaries and to those working to close the gender wage gap,” the researchers concluded in their paper.

Simpson RS, Scott BJ, Hamm KJ, et al. Optometry compensation study: narrowing down the unexplained gender wage gap in optometry. Optom Vis Sci. October 26, 2020. [Epub ahead of print].