Hearing the words “eye doctor” may bring to mind the image of an optometrist, who examine you eyes mainly to test your vision. Though doctors of optometry, optometrists don’t usually complete a physician residency program. Ophthalmologists, who diagnose and treat diseases of the eye, do. Like any other physician, they’re paid for their time in residency, which often lasts three years.
In 2011, the average physician earned $184,650 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But this number doesn’t account for specialty -- a factor that has a lot of bearing on your earning potential. Ophthalmologists earned anywhere from $147,000 a year at hospitals to $352,000 at health-care organizations, revealed a 2012 study by Medscape. Resident doctors, however, earn just a fraction of this salary.
As with a “standard” job, salaries vary by institution. At the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center, for example, ophthalmology residents earned $51,840 in their first year, $54,612 in their second year and $57,428 in their third year as of 2013. In 2012, the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins offered $48,909 to first-years, $50,957 to second-years and $53,198 to third-years. The Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA provides a similar pay scale, with first-years earning $49,291, second-years earning $51,062 and third-years earning $53,071 as of 2011.
In addition to a salary, residents commonly receive many of the benefits afforded to full-time employees. Most medical facilities cover the cost of a resident’s medical, dental, life and disability insurance. Vacation time is also allotted to residents, and may vary by year in school. Four weeks of vacation is common, but you may get an additional week in your second or third year of your internship. Some residency programs even offer a retirement plan, as is the case with the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins.
Due to the nature of work, residency programs have also been known to provide perks to their interns. At the Jules Stein Eye Institute, the school provides all of its interns with a laptop computer as well as a PDA. At the Wilmer Eye Institute, you get a yearly allowance of $800 to cover the costs of books and other equipment. The Kellogg Eye Center offers free parking for all on-call residents. It’s also not uncommon to receive free meals while on-call and even a free pair of glasses or sunglasses with your internship.