Fans of classic rock—and dysfunctional interpersonal dynamics—spent our post-Thanksgiving time peering into the inner workings of late-era Beatles in the eight-hour documentary Get Back, watching the band stagger in fits and starts toward their final concert and penultimate album. Though it may be a time capsule from half a century ago, the shambolic proceedings seem the perfect counterpart to pandemic life, too. We see the bandmates flourishing creatively one moment, bickering and bored the next. Throughout, there’s a pervasive sense that something that once held them together has been lost, something they’re trying to… well, get back.
Much of 2021 was consumed the world over by a desire to “get back” to pre-pandemic life, personally and professionally. At least within optometry, there are clear signs that’s happening.
This issue’s annual income survey shows that earnings bounced back from the low-water mark of 2020, as average income jumped from $160,000 last year to over $180,000 in 2021. As always, ODs who are self-employed fared the best, with an average income of nearly $250,000. Employed optometrists were down around $139,000, but still up from their 2020 numbers.
Encouragingly for a profession that is now majority female, the gender gap looks to be narrowing. In 2020, there was an abysmal 47% imbalance between the incomes of male and female optometrists. In 2021, that shrank to just 14%. The gains for women ODs showed up across the board, too, regardless of years of experience. And in perhaps a sign of things to come, female optometrists in the 11-20 years bracket actually out-earned their male counterparts, the first time such a finding showed up in our survey.
Furthermore, a solid majority (70%) of everyone who replied felt satisfied with their 2021 earnings, and 68% expect their income to increase in 2022.
Another positive signal of optometry’s recovery is the much more robust plans for continuing education we saw while compiling this year’s Conference Planner supplement, a compendium of upcoming CE events we publish each December. There are over 260 meetings planned for 2022, and the vast majority will happen in person (some with a streaming component, too).
Despite new worries about COVID and intractable problems elsewhere in society, things are definitely looking up.
In the end, the Beatles never really got back the mojo that suffused their early, firing-on-all-cylinders days. But optometry at the tail end of 2021 has all the makings of a profession about to come roaring back. As the band themselves would say: I’ve got a feeling.
On a positive note for us, we’re excited to announce that Alison Bozung, OD, a rising star at Bascom Palmer and in the profession, has joined the Review editorial board. She’ll take over the Urgent Care column next month and will also make important contributions to our content development process.