Vision therapy is a specialized field where you'll help people overcome eye muscle deficiencies that affect their vision, including lazy eye, double vision and eye movement disorders. You can become a vision therapist at the technician level or as a doctor of optometry with a specialization in low-vision treatment and therapy.
The Education Factor
You can work as a vision therapist at three different levels, depending on your education. If you have a high school or associate degree, you can work as a vision therapist at the technician level under the guidance of a doctor. The average salary for this type of vision therapist was $36,280 as of 2013, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. With a bachelor’s degree and two years of additional specialized training, you can become a vision therapist with the official designation "orthoptist," a career that earned an average salary of $53,504 as of 2012, according to the information website Salary List. If you become an optometrist and specialize in vision therapy, you could expect an average yearly income of $111,640 as of 2013, according to the BLS.
Differences by Employment Sector
Where you work also makes a difference in your pay as a vision therapist. A technician earns the highest pay in a hospital or outpatient clinic -- $44,770 and $43,850, respectively. You can expect to earn the lowest salary -- just $28,410 as of 2013 -- working in a health or personal care store. As an optometrist, you'd earn the highest salary in a doctor’s office -- $133,580 -- and somewhat less at an outpatient care facility -- $119,340 -- as of 2013, according to the BLS. The lowest optometrist salaries, as of 2013, were at universities and specialty hospitals -- $90,280 and $89,340, respectively. If you go into practice by yourself, your income will, of course, depend on factors such as the cost of rent and employee salaries and your ability to market your services and collect payment.
Location also makes a difference in a vision therapist's salary. According to the BLS, the top five states for optometrist salaries as of 2013 were, in order, Alaska, Connecticut, South Dakota, Rhode Island and North Dakota, with average salaries ranging from $176,810 down to $134,470. The lowest optometrist salaries were in Colorado, at $88,500 and Nevada, at $88,840. For vision therapy technicians, the highest average salaries as of 2013 were in Alaska, Minnesota, Washington, Hawaii and New Jersey, with pay ranging from $46,800 down to $41,880. The lowest pay was in Nevada, at $27,960, and Oklahoma salaries ranked second lowest, at $28,770.
Certification Impact on Salary
An optometrist must be board certified to treat patients, but to specialize in vision therapy, you must take additional postgraduate training to sit for national boards to earn certification as a fellow in the College of Optometrists in Vision Development. If you're a technician who works for an F.C.O.V.D., you can apply for certification as a certified optometric vision therapist after you have at least 2,000 hours of clinical experience in vision therapy. Or, if you have at least an associate degree, you can apply for certification after only 1,000 hours of clinical experience. While this certification is likely to make you a more attractive candidate for hire, it may not necessarily increase your earnings. By contrast, if you become a certified orthoptist, your overall salary range will be about $17,000 per year higher.