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Optometrist: Salary and conditions

  • There is no set minimum salary for the pre-registration year in private practice but most practices offer salaries ranging from £14,000 to £17,000 per annum.
  • Range of typical starting salaries (private practice): £19,500-£28,000.
  • Range of typical salaries at senior level/with experience (private practice), typically after five years in the job post registration: £37,500-£53,600.
  • Locum daily rates range from £221 to £283.
  • Earnings for company directors, partners and sole practitioners depend very much on business performance.
  • Jobs in the NHS as a hospital optometrist are usually covered by the Agenda for Change Pay Rates  consisting of nine pay bands. Typical salaries for the pre-registration year start at £18,652 (band 4). Typical starting salaries range from £25,528-£34,189 (band 6). Specialist optometrists can earn £30,460-£40,157 (band 7) and principal optometrists £38,851-£55,945 (band 8a/8b). Typical salaries for consultant optometrists range from £54,454-£80,810 (band 8c/8d). There are additional allowances available for high cost of living areas, e.g. London.
  • Working hours are usually 9.00am-5.30pm. Optometrists generally work between 36 and 39 hours per week and usually work five days a week. In community practice weekend and evening work is common, particularly in the larger chains.
  • Private practice work is usually performed in the high street from shop front premises comprising a retail section and private consulting rooms.
  • Hospital work is undertaken in consulting rooms in hospital trust buildings.
  • Optometrists spend large parts of the day in a fairly small room with no natural light and have to make close physical contact with people to examine their eyes, which involves lots of bending and standing.
  • Part-time and temporary locum work is available, often working in a variety of practices.
  • Self-employment through a franchise, partnership, or sole trader operation is possible, usually after some years' experience.
  • Career breaks are possible but unless you are intending to take a significant amount of time off you may wish to remain on the General Optical Council (GOC)  register. In order to do this you must undertake a certain amount of continuing education and training (CET) during your break. If you wish to come off the GOC register you need to have undertaken a certain amount of CET before you apply to be readmitted.
  • There is a fairly even gender split within the profession: 54% of optometrists are female and 46% male (GOC Annual Report).
  • Jobs are available throughout the UK in hospitals and all types of practice. Competition for jobs may be greater in the geographical areas surrounding the universities offering optometry degrees.
  • Some optometrists prefer to work in different practices throughout the week but for others most work will be undertaken in one location, with some travel to other practice premises in the local area. National travel is usually for training purposes or to attend conferences.
  • Optometrists are expected to dress smartly and show high levels of courtesy, professionalism and friendliness.
  • Overnight absences from home due to work are very rare.
  • UK-registered optometrists can find work abroad. Some countries require you to take further examinations.

Salary figures are intended as a guide only.

Written by AGCAS editors
June 2012

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