2017 National Optometry Workforce Survey

Optom Vis Sci. 2021 May 1;98(5):500-511. doi: 10.1097/OPX.0000000000001688.


Significance: Planning for the effective delivery of eye care, on all levels, depends on an accurate and detailed knowledge of the optometric workforce and an understanding of demographic/behavioral trends to meet future needs of the public.

Purpose: The purposes of this study were to assess the current and future supply of doctors of optometry and to examine in-depth trends related to (1) demographic shifts, (2) sex-based differences, (3) differences in practice behaviors in between self-employed and employed optometrists, and (4) the concept of additional capacity within the profession.

Methods: The 2017 National Optometry Workforce Survey (31 items) was distributed to 4050 optometrists, randomly sampled from a population of 45,033 currently licensed and practicing optometrists listed in the American Optometric Association's Optometry Master Data File. A stratified sampling method was applied to the population of optometrists using primary license state, age, and sex as variables to ensure a representative sample.

Results: With a response rate of 29% (1158 responses), the sample ensured a 95% confidence interval with a margin of error of <5%. Key results include finding no significant differences between men and women for hours worked (38.9 vs. 37.5), productivity (patient visits per hour, 2.0 vs. 1.9), or career options/professional growth satisfaction with 65% for both. The data indicate a likely range of additional patient capacity of 2.29 to 2.57 patients per week (5.05 to 5.65 million annually profession-wide).

Conclusions: The optometric workforce for the next decade is projected to grow 0.6 to 0.7% more annually than the U.S. population. The study found additional capacity for the profession more limited than previously suggested. Findings also illustrate an evolving/equitable workforce based on sex, in terms of both productivity and satisfaction. The trend toward employed versus self-employed was marked with 44% reporting they are employed, up from 29% in 2012.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Health Services Needs and Demand / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Services Research / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Surveys
  • Health Workforce / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Optometrists / supply & distribution*
  • Optometry / statistics & numerical data*
  • Professional Practice / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States