When patients require retinal surgeries, general practitioners primarily refer them to ophthalmologists, who are specialists in corrective procedures of the eye. Retinal ophthalmology is a subspecialty of ophthalmology and usually entails surgical and laser treatments of the retina. Salaries for ophthalmologists often reach six figures.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics sets salaries for surgeons as a whole at an average of $230,540 a year, as of 2012. A survey by Medscape found salaries for ophthalmologists were nearly 20 percent higher, at an average of $276,000 a year. Those specializing in retina surgery earned more than twice this rate, bringing home an average of $619,114 in 2009, according to a survey by the Medical Group Management Association. In fact, it was the fifth highest-paid medical specialty in the United States at the time of publication.
Even at the start of a career, retina ophthalmologists earn six-figure salaries. In an article for "Review of Ophthalmology," Lauren Simon, a physician recruiter, explains that those specializing in retina start out at a minimum of $200,000 a year. However, offers for first-year retina ophthalmologists can be as high as $300,000 to $400,000 a year.
As with many medical specialties, earnings can vary by practice setting, and retina ophthalmologists are no exception. As of 2009, those working in a single-specialty group practice earned an average of $570,319, according to the MGMA survey. At a multi-specialty group practice, retina ophthalmologists averaged $594,696 a year.
As of 2012, a sizable gap in compensation still exists between men and women in the field of ophthalmology as a whole. In general, male ophthalmologists earned 34 percent more than females, bringing home an average of $294,000. Female ophthalmologists, on the other hand, averaged $220,000 a year.
Though information is limited for ophthalmologists, the BLS expects employment opportunities for surgeons as a whole will grow by as much as 24 percent between 2010 and 2020. By comparison, this is much faster than the anticipated growth for all U.S. occupations, an average of 14 percent. Those specializing in areas affecting baby boomers, such as ophthalmology, should experience the best prospects.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Physicians and Surgeons
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012 – Surgeons
- Medscape: Ophthalmologist Compensation Report 2013
- Becker’s Hospital Review: 5 Top-Paid Medical Specialties
- Review of Ophthalmology: The First Five Years – Your First Job
- Stefan Zaklin/Getty Images News/Getty Images